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Massive SC cleanup from Hurricane Dorian ongoing, residents urged to finish Sunday

Hurricane Dorian debris

City of Charleston crews take debris from Hurricane Dorian to the old Northbridge Piggly Wiggly site, where it's collected by Charleston County crews for transfer to larger sites where debris is shredded or burned Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019. Brad Nettles/Staff

The Charleston area escaped much-feared flooding and wind damage from Hurricane Dorian, but huge amounts of debris have kept an army of collection crews busy seven days a week.

Charleston County and the city of Charleston are urging residents to get any remaining yard debris out to the curb by Sunday.

Some areas have yet to see a first collection of yard debris from the hurricane two weeks ago, but Charleston city and county officials say a "first pass" of all areas should be done by Sept 28.

There will still be work to be done after that first pass but most of the removal is expected to be completed by mid-October. Local governments are documenting it all in order to pursue reimbursement from the federal government.

The amount of debris throughout Charleston County alone is expected to top 300,000 cubic yards — that's enough debris to fill nearly 8,000 trucks, or cover 372 acres of land 5 feet deep.

“I think there is a lot more debris than folks expected," said Richard Turner, deputy director for Operations with Charleston County. “After last weekend there was more debris put out on the street, even in places we’d already collected from."

Large local governments have been providing daily updates on debris collections. For example, Mount Pleasant reported Wednesday that work had not started in 38 percent of neighborhoods.

"We are seeing on social media that residents are starting to get upset that their debris hasn’t been collected yet," the town posted on its website. "It is going to take some time to get everything picked up."

The city of Charleston said that in a normal week, crews collect 2,400 cubic yards of trash. Dorian put about 100,000 cubic yards on the ground, the city estimates.

About half of the expected total of storm debris had been collected through Thursday.

For towns, cities and counties, the challenge isn't just collecting all the debris, but figuring out where to put it. In Charleston County, most towns and cities are taking what they collect to transfer areas, and from there it goes to the county's four locations to be ground, mulched or burned.

For example, the city of Charleston takes debris to the former Piggly Wiggly site in West Ashley.

“We’re taking it out of that site about as quickly as they’re bringing it in," Turner said.

One of the county's two locations for burning debris, in Ravenel along Hyde Park Road, switched to grinding and mulching debris Friday after complaints from area residents.

"We received a number of complaints about smoke in the area," Turner said.

Now, Charleston County debris is only being burned at Pine Landing Road on Edisto Island.

At a Charleston County Council meeting Thursday, Chairman Elliott Summey said the county was "getting too much heat" over the debris-burning in Ravenel, which had attracted both complaints and news media attention.

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Reach David Slade at 843-937-5552. Follow him on Twitter @DSladeNews.

David Slade is a senior Post and Courier reporter. His work has been honored nationally by Society of Professional Journalists, American Society of Newspaper Editors, Scripps foundation and others. Reach him at 843-937-5552 or dslade@postandcourier.com

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