Sunday, August 19, 2018
Tampa Bay Weather

Debris clean-up still a slow slog across Tampa Bay

TAMPA — Several Hillsborough County commissioners are complaining about the speed of debris pickup after Hurricane Irma and said residents aren't being told how long they will have to wait.

At a board meeting Wednesday, Commissioner Ken Hagan said removal dates have been pushed back several times and asked why the county took down a digital map that told residents when their curbs might be cleared.

It's likely to be mid November before crews finish their first pass through Hillsborough, officials told commissioners.

"I see piles and piles of debris everywhere," Hagan said.

Ditto, said Commissioner Stacy White. And residents are confused about what they can leave at the curb, said Commissioner Victor Crist.

Meanwhile, the county may not be reimbursed by the federal government for some debris pickup because it didn't go through the proper steps before clearing some communities.

County Administrator Mike Merrill made that decision because he didn't want to wait several weeks to get approval from the Federal Emergency Management Administration.

"I felt like for all the reasons that you noted, we need to get picked up," Merrill told commissioners. He said the staff is working with the county's congressional delegation to ensure full reimbursement.

Complaints about the pace of debris cleanup are being heard across the Tampa Bay area.

In Pinellas, county public works director Rahim Harji estimates it will be the end of October before the work is complete. Then crews will make additional passes through the county to make sure no new piles have accumulated. He acknowledged "there is a concern" that some debris could go airborne if another storm hits the county. The county, he said, has received calls about some of the bigger piles.

"We want to get those out of the way," Harji said.

Amid the cleanup, the county is finding that commercial tree companies are dumping fresh debris in rights of way in order to save on disposal costs, Harji said. For example, he said, crews have picked up debris three times from a location on Belcher Road. The county is now working with the Sheriff's Office to stop the violators.

As of midafternoon Wednesday, St. Petersburg had removed nearly 40,000 cubic yards of debris, said Ben Kirby, spokesman for Mayor Rick Kriseman. It's unclear how much debris remains. Kirby referred an inquiry to a map on a city website that shows large swaths of the city still not scheduled for debris removal.

"More haulers have arrived. And more may still. Our pace will continue to pick up," Kirby said.

In Hillsborough, the cleanup began Sept. 18 — about a week after Hurricane Irma passed through the Tampa Bay area.

The problem, Merrill said, is the amount of debris left behind, which he described as "the size of Raymond James Stadium and the height of this building," meaning the County Center, a 28-story tower. And it is spread throughout a county that is the size of Rhode Island.

"Again, it's not an excuse, but it's just a fact," Merrill said. "It's been two weeks."

County staffers said they can post a map by the end of the week identifying which areas have already been cleaned and what neighborhoods are prioritized moving forward. The cities of Tampa and St. Petersburg and Pinellas County produced similar maps this week.

Merrill had asked the staff to remove a similar map from the county's website because he didn't "want to set expectations that we can't meet."

Commissioner Les Miller said people should be patient and know this will take time due to the magnitude of the storm.

Miller, who noted that his Tampa home still has debris on the curb, said city and suburban residents should be mindful that there are county homes near the Alafia River dealing with a lot worse.

"They need help," Miller said. "They had flooding. We lost limbs on trees."

Times staff writers Mark Puente and Charlie Frago contirbuted to this report. Contact Steve Contorno at [email protected]

Comments
Forecast: Heat index of 103 in Tampa Bay Sunday

Forecast: Heat index of 103 in Tampa Bay Sunday

ST. PETERSBURG — It’s another hot one.Temperatures across Tampa Bay are expected to reach the low- or -mid-90s Sunday, according to the National Weather Service, with heat indices as high as 103.Scattered thunderstorms will dot the region in the afte...
Published: 08/19/18
Get ready for a hot and sunny weekend across Tampa

Get ready for a hot and sunny weekend across Tampa

The ridge of high pressure bringing drier air across Florida and the Gulf of Mexico will hold through the weekend, allowing for hot and dry conditions with low chances of rain, according to the National Weather Service.A dry Friday morning will see t...
Published: 08/17/18
Stretch of heat and sunshine to continue in Tampa Bay through weekend

Stretch of heat and sunshine to continue in Tampa Bay through weekend

A ridge of high pressure that has settled in the western Atlantic will provide Tampa Bay with drier, more stable weather for the next few days, according to the National Weather Service.Clear skies and lots of sunshine will characterize the morning w...
Published: 08/16/18
Subtropical Storm Ernesto forms in north Atlantic

Subtropical Storm Ernesto forms in north Atlantic

The fifth named storm of the 2018 hurricane season has formed far off in the north Atlantic and poses no threat to land.As of Wednesday at 11 a.m., Subtropical Storm Ernesto had maximum sustained winds of 40 mph with higher gusts and was about 695 mi...
Published: 08/15/18
Clear skies to persist through weekend across Tampa Bay

Clear skies to persist through weekend across Tampa Bay

Tampa Bay should see plenty of sunshine for the rest of the week and into the weekend as a drier air mass will help to keep the skies mostly clear. But it hasn’t completely banished any chance of rain as a southeastern air flow could carry isolated s...
Published: 08/15/18
More afternoon storms across Tampa Bay, but dry air is on its way

More afternoon storms across Tampa Bay, but dry air is on its way

Ongoing pockets of scattered showers and isolated thunderstorms are drifting along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico due to a southwestern air flow. Those storms will begin to expand and shift inland by the afternoon and evening, pushing the Tampa Bay ...
Published: 08/14/18
A wet first day back to school for many Tampa Bay students

A wet first day back to school for many Tampa Bay students

Children across the Tampa Bay area head to their first day of classes Monday in wet, muggy conditions, but things should improve by the second half of the week as more dry air shifts into the Tampa Bay area. Parents will want to bring an umbrella ...
Published: 08/13/18
Forecast: Heat, scattered thunderstorms in Tampa Bay

Forecast: Heat, scattered thunderstorms in Tampa Bay

ST. PETERSBURG — Tampa Bay can expect scattered thunderstorms and heat Sunday.Temperatures will reach about 88 degrees, according to the National Weather Service, but the heat index will climb as high as 97.Scattered showers and thunderstorms will t...
Published: 08/12/18
Tampa forecast: Thunderstorms and heavy rains possible

Tampa forecast: Thunderstorms and heavy rains possible

Thunderstorms with possible heavy rainfall will again move through the Tampa Bay area Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.EXTENDED FORECAST: The 10-day outlook for the Tampa Bay areaAs of Saturday morning, most storms were concentrate...
Published: 08/11/18
Look for a muggy, but drier morning as Hillsborough students head back to school

Look for a muggy, but drier morning as Hillsborough students head back to school

It’s looking to be a fairly muggy morning with partly cloudy skies as Hillsborough County students head back to school today.The National Weather Service reports an area of high pressure holding over the Gulf of Mexico as a strong influence over the ...
Published: 08/10/18