As residents and municipal workers continue chipping away at the piles of debris left in Hurricane Dorian's wake, state and local governments are still figuring out who will pick up the tab for the mess.

Derrec Becker, spokesman for the S.C. Emergency Management Division, said the agency's staff is waiting on damage assessments from local governments before they begin work on petitioning the president for relief funding later this week.

If President Donald Trump declares an emergency or disaster, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state may reimburse cities for the cost of debris removal contractors, which haven't yet been calculated.

Those costs can add up quickly. After Hurricane Matthew tore up the South Carolina coast in 2016, FEMA doled out $245.5 million statewide, Becker said. That money was used for work such as infrastructure repair, debris removal and on other public work.

Meanwhile, crews are working overtime in several area cities and towns to haul away fallen trees, clear storm drains and ditches, and pick up debris set along area roads by residents. 

Charleston County officials began damage assessments over the weekend, and were still tallying up the necessary services Monday, spokesman Sean Smetana said. As they worked to determine what additional help may be necessary, cities began collections with their owner workers and equipment. County collection begins Tuesday.

Charleston spokesman Jack O'Toole said Hurricane Dorian created more debris than Irma but less than Matthew. Matt Alltop, city superintendent of Environmental Services, said neighborhoods with the most damage appear to include Shadowmoss, Sandhurst, Grand Oaks, Oak Forest Drive, the lower half of the peninsula and southern Daniel Island.

Garbage pickup in Charleston resumed Monday. By 4:30 p.m., crews removed more than 150 truckloads from the city. Any resident who lives in a Monday trash pick-up zone and whose garbage was not collected, should leave their bins out on Tuesday. 

A contractor is slated to begin work on Daniel Island this week, officials said.

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Tom Donahue sweeps up the rest of his debris in his yard on Monday, Sept. 9, 2019, on James Island. Andrew J. Whitaker/Staff

Mount Pleasant resumed its normal pickup schedule Monday but said the high volume of debris, including 88 felled trees, could lead to delays. Crews are still pushing debris from roads throughout the city, and they won't begin Tuesday's route until Monday's is completed.

"We know that the cleanup from the storm will not happen overnight," town spokeswoman Martine Wolfe-Miller said. "We are expecting to get some help."

The town doesn't expect regular trash pickup to suffer, but it's asking the county for help in hiring debris-collection contractors.

In North Charleston, debris collection began Monday and will run through Saturday. The city did not have estimates on the amount of it expected to collect, but the significant increase in debris collection is resulting in delayed pick-ups, city spokesman Ryan Johnson said.

Residents saw debris ranging from scattered limbs to fallen pines, several of which fell atop vehicles and homes. Johnson said fewer than 100 of the city’s 42,000 housing units were impacted by the storm.

The city won’t be seeking outside help for debris collection, which will done by city’s public works and sanitation employees, along with contractor Carolina Waste.

Summerville’s Public Works Department worked last week to clear storm debris off roads. Town spokesperson Mary Edwards said all roads in Summerville were passable by 4 p.m. Thursday, except for those covered in trees and limbs that were wrapped in power lines. Dominion Energy worked through the weekend to clear those, she said.

The town started curbside collections of storm debris Monday, and its crews plan to work extended hours this week, possibly into next week.

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Patrick Queen drives a Vermeer S725TX Mini Skid Steer to remove debris from a resident's home on James Island on Monday, Sept. 9, 2019. Andrew J. Whitaker/Staff

Crews are also cutting up large trees and limbs to smaller sizes that are easier to collect, Edwards said. The town will wait until mid-week to assess the amount of debris being collected before deciding whether to hire a debris removal contractor.

Hurricane Wire is a pop-up newsletter during hurricane season that delivers anyone who lives on the East Coast all the information they need to know as storms brew in the Atlantic and beyond.


James Island suffered significant wind damage, including more than 100 trees knocked over in the James Island Public Service District, said Walter Desmond, director of Solid Waste Services.

The district's employees began their regular Monday route but hope the county's contractors will help with the workload. If they do, those contractors would start at the end of the route and work backward so the district can keep track of each crew's progress, Desmond said.

"Otherwise, it could take us a week and a half to do the Monday route," Desmond said. "We've learned the lesson from past storms that this is the way to do it."

In Berkeley County, crews are set to begin debris removal Tuesday, beginning in unincorporated areas, officials said. Residents can put yard debris by the road. 

Goose Creek residents can leave any debris up to 4 feet long and 4 inches in diameter, and weighing up to 50 pounds for pickup, officials said. 

The same size and weight restrictions are set for debris in Moncks Corner, where town crews are handling debris pickup, officials said. 

How to place your debris:

  • Place the debris in small piles within 10 feet of the curbside — not in the roadway or far back in your yard.
  • Sort debris into separate piles: one for tree branches and other vegetation, one for construction debris, one for hazardous materials and another for regular household trash. Electronics and large appliances should also be kept separate.
  • Keep the piles a few feet from trees, police, fire hydrants and other immobile objects to make removal easier.
  • Consolidate small bits of debris into paper bags.
  • Cut large fallen tree limbs into segments under 4 feet.
  • Charleston County residents can bring one load of debris to the municipal dump themselves. Bring proof of residency to 1344 Bee's Ferry Road in Charleston to drop it off. Limited to one load of less than one ton per household each month.
  • Document the debris removal through the Charleston County website or by downloading a form from the South Carolina Emergency Management Division.

Mikaela Porter, Rickey Dennis, Gregory Yee and Conner Mitchell contributed to this report.

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