CARTERET COUNTY — Due to Hurricane Dorian’s relatively minimal impact on many parts of Carteret County, county and municipal leaders are taking different approaches to debris removal.
In an email to the News Times, County Manager Tommy Burns said the amount of damage unincorporated areas of Carteret County sustained doesn’t warrant a debris removal effort by the county.
“The County has not been authorized and is not planning to pick up any debris,” Mr. Burns wrote, adding that residents should bring their own debris to a transfer station. “Additionally, the State has not been approved to pick up roadside debris either.”
This news troubled county resident Susan Wilder, who lives Down East.
“While there may be significantly less overall damage than in Florence, there are still people throughout eastern Carteret with trees down, marsh grass, and other storm debris,” Ms. Wilder said. “And at the individual level, the impacts are no less great — a tree falling during Dorian doesn’t have any less impact than one that fell in Florence.”
The county’s decision is in contrast to the aftermath of last year’s Hurricane Florence. The impact of Florence was such that county officials opened temporary debris sties and spearheaded a debris removal initiative that lasted months.
This time around, both the county and some municipalities believe residents can manage their own debris.
“The Town of Newport had minimal debris impact (vegetative debris) from Hurricane Dorian,” Newport Acting Manager Christopher Turner wrote in an email. “So little in fact that we did not activate our pre-positioned disaster debris contractor(s) or any of our municipal and/or county debris staging sites.”
As such, Newport officials urge residents not to leave their storm-related debris on roadsides.
“Town staff have been communicating with both property owners and contractors who have contacted Town Hall not to place post storm debris along municipal roadsides with an expectation for large scale pickup,” Mr. Turner wrote. “To date we have received excellent response and compliance with that request from property owners.”
A former assistant county manager, Mr. Turner explained the reasoning behind Newport’s decision not to stage debris removal projects.
“The decision matrix for storm/disaster debris pickup as well as the activation of our municipal and county debris staging sites is based on both volume of impact and ability to receive federal disaster funding for that category of work,” Mr. Turner said, later adding that municipal and county governments make such a decision as quickly as possible.
“However, it does take a few days post storm to assess, report and receive state and federal disaster communication from outside agencies before municipalities and the county can properly activate any pre-positioned disaster debris contracts,” reads Mr. Turner’s email.
Emerald Isle wasn’t as lucky as other municipalities, thanks to a tornado that touched down early Sept. 5 before Hurricane Dorian’s arrival.
The town’s public works department is receiving help from the cities of Jacksonville and New Bern in its debris removal efforts. The help from Jacksonville and New Bern has been mostly concentrated in and around Islander Drive and Louise Drive.
Beaufort, which recently entered into a contract with TFR Enterprises, will activate their contract. Town officials are asking residents to move their storm-related debris to the side of the road for pickup, currently scheduled for Friday morning and through Saturday.
Staff added that construction and vegetative debris must be placed in different stacks.
Pine Knoll Shores also has plans to pick up roadside debris starting next week.
Atlantic Beach is planning on using staff for its debris removal.
“Our town was not heavily impacted by downed limbs, brush and debris,” reads a press release the town posted on its Facebook page. “Therefore we will be running our own brush trucks town-wide, as needed, to remove residential brush and limbs placed on the street’s edge.”
Morehead City, too, has been using town staff to collect storm debris. City Manager Ryan Eggleston said during Tuesday’s city council meeting two public works crews have been running trucks daily to pick up debris from the roadside.
Mr. Eggleston reminded residents not to place yard waste directly under power lines or within about 4 feet of a mailbox.
“Those are the two biggest obstacles for our folks to get in and keep moving quickly,” he said.
The city manager also urged residents to put out their debris as soon as possible, because the city wants to submit collection data to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for reimbursement consideration. So far, there has not been a major federal disaster declaration for Dorian in North Carolina, so the cost of debris collection falls on individual municipalities.
“The debris, at this point, (it) may be on us,” Mr. Eggleston said. “It may still be able to be reimbursable from FEMA, we’re waiting to get some numbers to the county, and the county is working with FEMA.”
In the meantime, Mr. Eggleston said debris collection crews are taking care to document every cost associated with cleanup in case it is reimbursable.
Reporter Elise Clouser contributed to this report.
Contact Dean-Paul Stephens at 252-726-7081, ext. 232; email Dean@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @DeanPEStephens.