Hurricane Dorian

A city of Charleston employee dumps a load of debris from Hurricane Dorian at the old Northbridge Piggly Wiggly site Monday, October 14, 2019. More debris fell and was collected in Charleston than previously expected. Brad Nettles/Staff

It has been more than a month since Hurricane Dorian brought heavy rain and wind to the Palmetto State and then left, but the amount of debris caused by the storm is growing day after day. 

The Category 5 storm that devastated the Bahamas in late August left the Carolina coast mostly unscathed. But in the month since Dorian skirted Charleston, more than 600,000 cubic yards of vegetation, trash and brush have been collected in the county, surpassing previously estimated numbers and even topping debris amounts from Hurricane Matthew. 

"It was much larger than expected," said Matt Alltop, superintendent of environmental services for the city. "It's due, in part, to Dorian's prolonged winds."

The average wind speed was 29.6 mph for Dorian and the tropical storm-force winds "lasted for a longer duration than Matthew," said Doug Berry, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Charleston. 

Last month, Charleston expected around 300,000 cubic yards of debris for the county, which also includes all municipalities. That figure was blown out of the water.

As of Monday afternoon, the county had more than doubled the anticipated amounts. By comparison, Hurricane Matthew in 2016 brought 380,000 cubic yards of debris. 

Cleanup is expected to wrap up this week in Charleston County, but it hasn't been an easy undertaking. Typically, the city picks up about 90,000 cubic yards of vegetation in a single year. They've nearly doubled that just from Dorian alone. 

Hurricane Dorian

Tree debris from Hurricane Dorian remains on Cypress Street in downtown Charleston on Monday, October 14, 2019. Brad Nettles/Staff

Picking up the pieces hasn't been an easy undertaking. 

The county hired disaster-recovery management company Rostan Solutions and debris hauler AshBritt to help clean up after Dorian hit. In an effort to help expedite the cleanup process, Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg authorized that 18 city employees be trained to monitor cleanup. 

The city trained a records clerk, a procurement officer, three livability code enforcement officers, three parking enforcement officers, three traffic and transportation officers, a housing secretary and a revenue collections clerk. So far, the city has not had to use those monitors, city spokesman Jack O'Toole said. 

Those monitors are necessary to tally up the total cubic yardage of the debris to provide accurate numbers to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for relief funds. O'Toole did not immediately have a cost available for the cleanup efforts so far. The majority of the funds, at least 75 percent of it, will be covered by FEMA funds given to the Palmetto State. 

“There’s definitely a toll on the employees and on the equipment,” Alltop said. 

While the city has been scrambling to pick up the debris, some residents were concerned that it took too long overall. Phil Turner, who lives south of Broad in downtown Charleston, said his brush didn't get picked up until the end of last week. 

“I understand crews are working really hard,” Turner said. “But this year, after the storm hit, it just seemed like it took forever."

Alltop pointed out that cleanup from Matthew took around 90 days, while the cleanup from Dorian is expected to be wrapped up in a little more than 30 days. 

Cleanup hasn't been easy in other parts of the Charleston area. 

An additional $202,000 was approved by Dorchester County Council to fund more debris removal. A total of 30,000 cubic yards will have been collected since the storm. The county said it would apply for FEMA grant that would reimburse 75 percent of the cost.

While Matthew brought floods of debris to Charleston and Dorchester counties, Berkeley County had a decent handle on the wreckage. 

Berkeley County spokeswoman Hannah Moldenhauer said more than 11,000 cubic yards were collected. The preliminary estimate for storm cleanup cost was around $675,000. Moldenhauer said the area has been approved for FEMA financial assistance. 

Overall, Dorian produced "less than a quarter" of the debris in Berkeley County that was caused by Hurricane Matthew.

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Reach Thomas Novelly at 843-937-5715. Follow him @TomNovelly on Twitter. 

Thomas Novelly reports on crime, growth and development as well as military issues in Berkeley and Dorchester counties. Previously, he was a reporter at the Courier Journal in Louisville, Kentucky. He is a fan of Southern rock, bourbon and horse racing.