Dallas contract crews will make one final sweep of debris collection in the northern neighborhoods devastated by the Oct. 20 tornado starting this week.
City officials said Dallas residents in the disaster zone — which includes Preston Hollow and parts of West Dallas — should put any remaining storm debris by the curb by Wednesday if they want to guarantee pickup.
Cleanup crews will begin on the last sweep Thursday and expect to be done by Jan. 15. Staffers estimate they’ve collected 95% of the debris so far.
The city has so far cleaned up 323,509 cubic yards of waste from neighborhoods devastated by the tornado. That’s about half the amount workers collected from the June 9 storm, when high winds and heavy rainfall downed more than 600 trees in Dallas’ parks alone.
Tim Oliver, interim director of Sanitation Services, said while the volume was worse in the June thunderstorm, contractors this time needed to circle back to a concentrated area up to 12 times in some cases to allow residents to clear a massive amount of materials in their yards.
“That’s a lot of debris coming out of one single path,” Oliver said.
On Oct. 20, an EF-3 tornado tore a 12-mile path from northwest Dallas into Richardson with winds up to 140 mph. The Dallas City Council in early November approved spending $60 million on emergency costs, hoping the Federal Emergency Management Agency would pay back 75% in the event of a presidential disaster declaration.
Tornado debris cleanup — which includes monitoring, grinding the debris down and hauling it to a landfill — will cost close to $10 million, Oliver said.
Cleanup workers on Thursday will begin with the outer edge of the disaster area and work their way toward more heavily damaged residential areas, such as around Walnut Hill and Marsh lanes.
City officials have hired out additional contract crews to help with the tornado cleanup and deployed up to 30 crews when material flooded the worst-hit streets. Brush and bulk collections were back on schedule as of December, Oliver said.
Dallas City Council member Jennifer Staubach Gates, who represents Preston Hollow, said many residents outside the impact zone were confused about whether the bulk and brush would get collected after the tornado. The city suspended routine bulk and brush routes after the storm to concentrate on the tornado debris, but they had resumed by Nov. 26.
Gates said the city is stretched thin whenever a storm hits, and believes council members need to revisit the bulk and brush collection program.
Council members have already approved a curb set-out limitation of 10 cubic yards of bulky waste and brush a month, which will take effect in July. Council members by fall planned to consider a pilot program to separate out biodegradable materials, which currently are mixed in with waste and can’t be recycled. Gates said the idea was unpopular with some constituents, but she wants to have the discussion.
She said the Sanitation Services staffers are challenged when they’re expected to continue bulk waste pickup and respond to a disaster.
“Our current bulk and brush program is already very taxing on our department,” Gates said. “If the city really wants to see improvements, they’re going to have to make changes to the way we pick up bulk and brush.”