BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - There was nothing expected about the severe thunderstorm that rolled through the Metro area on April 27. Strong winds and heavy rains wreaked havoc on neighborhoods. Trees and limbs came tumbling down, damaging homes and bringing down power lines.
The extended power outages that followed have power companies in the hot seat. It's no surprise then, that the cleanup crew was caught off guard too.
"It wasn't until the next Monday that we got to see how much debris was out there," said interim DPW Director Bryan Harmon.
Two weeks after the storm and many residents still have piles of branches and trees lining the streets. DPW has received nearly 9,000 phone calls asking why. On Wednesday, that same question came from Metro Council.
According to Harmon, the answer was simple: DPW underestimated just how much debris was out there. He says as people began to clean up, the piles got bigger. What was initially thought to be a two week cleanup was suddenly looking like a six week project.
Harmon says the contractor used by DPW to pick up day to day trash couldn't handle the estimated 70,000 cubic yards of debris. On top of that, the woody debris dump site for the southern part of the city closed in March. Debris has to be taken to a landfill north of the city, further slowing down clean up.
On Monday, DPW decided to activate its storm clean up contract. That contract is usually paid for with federal disaster funds. Since April's storm wasn't severe enough to qualify for aid, the cost will have to come out of pocket.
Harmon expects the cleanup costs to total around $300,000. DPW will pay for it using reserve funds.
However, it's a price well paid. Since DPW hired on its storm debris contractor, Harmon says they've cleared more in two days than they have in two weeks.
DPW now expects clean up to be finished within three weeks.