Chatham County, Savannah re-entry, recovery, debris removal info - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Chatham County, Savannah re-entry, recovery, debris removal information

(Source: FEMA/City of Savannah) (Source: FEMA/City of Savannah)

Chatham County and the city of Savannah are recovering from Hurricane Irma.

The city of Savannah started regular trash pickup on Thursday. If residents have things like limbs or other hurricane-related debris, that should be kept separate from regular garbage.

Storm Debris should be handled as follows:

  • Clean vegetative material should be placed at the regular point of yard waste collection if possible.
  • Follow regular set-out guidelines to the extent practical (cut branches to 4 feet and stack them; loose leaves in brown paper yard waste bags or container; no plastic bags).
  • Separate piles should be made for vegetative materials, building material debris, bulk items such as furniture, and empty appliances.
  • Following regular guidelines allows more material to be carried per truckload and speeds up the overall collection effort.

City officials said 150 people made calls 311 for tree and limb removal, and three trees fell onto homes. City crews started collecting debris from sidewalks and streets on Wednesday, and will begin collections at homes and business on Friday. Savannah City Manager Rob Hernandez doesn't think the removal will take very long. 

"We've already started that, and we will continue that process probably for the next week or so," Hernandez said. "I don't anticipate it going any longer than that because we just don't have a whole lot of debris out here, certainly not in comparison to Matthew." 

The city expects to collect only 5 percent of the amount of debris it collected after Hurricane Matthew, and said in a news release debris collection should last four to six weeks. 

Residents can also drop off their debris at the city’s two Convenience Centers, the Dean Forest Road Landfill and Bacon Park Transfer Station, and the city said residents can help expedite collection by following these guidelines:

  • Adhere to storm debris set-out guidelines.
  • Limit materials set out to storm-related items only. Now is not the time to clean out the closet or garage.
  • Do not mix and mingle different debris types; this only creates more work and slows the overall process down.
  • Only place plastic bags in City-issued refuse containers. Do not use plastic bags for yard debris.
  • Do not place debris in the roadway.
  • Do not blow leaves or other vegetation into the street. This will block storm drains and make us vulnerable to street flooding.

Hurricane Irma also brought major flooding to some well-known areas of Savannah, like River Street, and Hernandez said it was largely caused by storm surge.

During Irma, the city's stormwater system pumped just under one billion gallons of water out of Savannah neighborhoods. Crews pumped about six billion gallons of water out during Hurricane Matthew. The city's Public Works Bureau Chief said during a council work session Thursday flooding that happened isn't typical and would only happen with this kind of major storm surge. 

"Our system could not handle the storm surge, and so the flooding that we saw, certainly here in downtown and along River Street, just exceeded our capacity to deal with the water," Hernandez said. "But I think overall, city-wide, I'm pleased with the capacity to move water along. I didn't get a whole lot of complaints about widespread damage." 

The city said crews manned pumping stations 24/7, and the city's water and sewer system never went down. 

Crews are also assessing how many homes were impacted by Irma. While city leaders say they're glad it wasn't worse, the storm affected hundreds of families. 

Hernandez said as of Wednesday night, CEMA reports three homes were destroyed, 197 homes have major damage, 259 homes have minor damage, and a total of 440 habitable homes were affected. Crews assessed 47,550 homes with no visible damage. Assessments are still ongoing to determine the potential for a presidential disaster declaration, but Hernandez said he's thankful it wasn't worse. 

"I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that we did not have the extent of damage that we certainly saw during Hurricane Matthew, and it may be because when Matthew came in last year, it kind of cleaned out the dead trees and the vegetation and so forth," Hernandez said. "I expected to see more downed power lines. I expected to see more downed trees, and so we didn't see that this time around, so that was a pleasant surprise."

Hernandez said 1,800 people evacuated on buses from the Savannah Civic Center on Saturday, and hundreds more left on Sunday. He said 22 people stay at the civic center as a shelter of last resort because they arrived after buses already left.

As for public safety, city officials said Savannah-Chatham Metro Police and Savannah Fire never stopped responding to calls, and saw a 71 percent  decrease in burglaries compared to Hurricane Matthew. There were 187 in 2016 and just 54 after Hurricane Irma. There were 1,869 citizen-initiated calls for service and 11,393 officer-initiated calls.

Regular CAT bus routes and para-transit services have resumed. Those on the Functional Medical Needs Registry were transported back on Wednesday, as well as pets that were evacuated. Pet owners should contact Chatham County Animal Services at (912) 652-6575 to arrange for pick up. 

Public Works crews are driving through unincorporated areas in Chatham County to remove obstructions on roadways and assess damage to roads, bridges and drainage structures.

Debris removal in unincorporated areas will begin Thursday as well. Residents should follow the yard and bulk waste guidelines below:

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