JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – A week and a half after Hurricane Irma tore through the Jacksonville area, cleanup crews are starting to pick up the debris left behind from the storm in the beaches neighborhoods.
But it's a big task that could take weeks, beaches city officials said.
Heavy haulers have made it into town to start the process, and there’s already a large amount of debris collected in Neptune Beach.
The debris is 20 to 30 feet high in some parts of the holding area in Jarboe Park. From there, it will be moved to a landfill, like the one off Girvin Road in Jacksonville.
The beaches used a similar process after Hurricane Matthew, and it could take weeks to get all the debris off residents' curbs.
Atlantic Beach resident Earle Lay is losing his beloved oak tree, but he said he's grateful it didn’t go through the roof of his home.
“I've got to take the whole doggone thing down,” he lamented. “(But I) can't complain at all. We got lucky.”
Branches and limbs are piled up in front of his home after his neighbors helped clean up while he was out of town. They’re waiting for crews to haul it off.
Atlantic Beach Deputy City Manager Kevin Hogencamp said debris hauling crews started the tough task this week. For the latest on the city's progress, click here.
“Please be patient. It took about a month after Matthew and very well could take, we think, up to four weeks this time,” Hogencamp said. “We feel like we dodged a bullet.”
Hogencamp is asking residents to help make the process go more smoothly. For a breakdown of the rules for debris collection, click here.
“We're asking them not to put their debris under utility poles, power lines, and also not under low-hanging trees, asking people not to bag the debris,” he said.
It’s the same case in Neptune and Jacksonville beaches, where out-of-town contractors have begun collecting piles of debris.
And it is straining the cities' budgets. The debris removal isn’t cheap and could cost up to half a million dollars in Atlantic Beach and around $800,000 in Jacksonville Beach.
But the cities have reserves to cover the costs, and officials hope to be reimbursed up to 80 percent by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Some bulk pickup has also begun in Jacksonville, but the big debris cleanup starts Monday, according to the mayor’s office. That, too, could take weeks to complete.
“They are really doing what they can with what they got,” Lay said. “It's just a heckuva job.”