Last week's deep freeze left its mark on the Lowcountry in the form of slick roads and closed bridges and schools, but that was only the beginning.
When tree trunks and branches gave way to the weight of the frozen rain that accumulated on them, yards and roadways were scattered with debris that still remains part of the area landscape.
In Berkeley County, more than 737 tons of debris have been collected since the freeze, said Johanna Cooper, community relations manager for Berkeley County Water & Sanitation.
Dorchester County has picked up about 500 tons, said County Public Works Director Matt Halter. Charleston County, not hit as hard, has no major debris clean up under way, officials said.
Officials in Berkeley and Dorchester counties said cleanup could take weeks, based on the volume of debris they have seen so far, but homeowners should put their debris by the roadside as soon as possible.
"We want people to go ahead and put it out there," Cooper said of Berkeley residents. "It might take us a few days to get to it, but we are making our first pass through the county now."
Berkeley County cleanup crews and Crowder Gulf disaster recovery and debris management, an outside contractor, started making the rounds this week in the hardest-hit parts of the county: Moncks Corner, Pinopolis, Cross and Pineville.
Employees are working 12-hour days to cover the county within 30 days, Cooper said. A second pass will follow. In addition, residents who miss the pick-up can fill out a request at bcwsa.com.
"We don't want anyone to be missed if we can help it," Cooper said.
Dorchester County expects to complete its first pass by Saturday. It has been helped by surrounding governments and two trucks from Greenville County, according to County Administrator Jason Ward.
"The amount of debris in the county is similar to a strong Category 1 hurricane," he said, referencing damage from a cyclone with 70 mph winds. "As you drive farther (inland) in the county, you see significant debris from pine trees, hardwood branches and whole trees. The major challenge has been residents not able to get debris to the roadside."
The debris is heavy enough that the county is actively chipping and moving some debris from the Summerville drop-off site to a public works operations site in the rural county, Ward said. So far, that site and the two public sites have not been overwhelmed, he said.
Officials urge residents to use caution in piling up their waste and to not put it in roadside drainage ditches or swales.
Yard debris should be stacked in lengths of 4 feet or less and should not be mixed with construction or household waste.
"People should be very careful using chain saws and cutting trees that are under stress," said Berkeley County Emergency Preparedness Director Tom Smith. "Watch out for load shifts and spring effect, especially with stuff that is hanging overhead."
In Dorchester County, Legend Oaks resident Jason Couch, 43, was killed Wednesday when a limb fell out of a tree and hit him on the head. Dorchester County Coroner Chris Nesbit said an autopsy showed the cause of death to be a brain injury due to blunt force trauma.
Volunteers are willing to help residents who have financial or physical limitations to cut limbs or trees and haul refuse to the roadside, officials said.
Statewide, the S.C. Forestry Commission is urging forest owners and tree farmers to assess their situation and seek expert advice before making timber-management decisions on downed trees.
While fallen timber will eventually degrade, commission staff said there is time for landowners to discuss their situations with professional foresters. These experts can advise landowners on salvaging downed trees and the proper actions to take for damaged standing timber.
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