Although damage assessments are still incomplete, Isaac appears to have caused far less destruction in East Baton Rouge Parish than Hurricane Gustav, leaving only a fraction of the debris of the 2008 storm, city-parish officials and contractors said Thursday.
Schools across the region remain closed and thousands remained without power, but many parish and state government offices were returning to normal operations Friday as crews set about clearing roadways and begin hauling off downed trees, limbs and trash.
“As of today, we are estimating that the amount of cubic yardage is about 125,000, maybe as much as 250,000” said Kristy Fuentes, a regional manager for DRC Emergency Services, the city-parish’s debris collection contractor. “This is definitely not a Gustav event.”
During Gustav, crews picked up an estimated 2.2 million cubic yards of debris with more than 400 trucks, said Bob Hearn, who coordinates debris collection for the East Baton Rouge Parish Department of Public Works.
About 20 trucks will begin collecting debris placed on curbs on Monday, Hearn said.
He said DPW plans to release on Friday a list of ZIP codes where trucks will collect debris beginning Monday. The list of ZIP codes and days will be updated as the effort progresses, he said.
The damage from Isaac, while less than that caused by Gustav, appeared to be spread widely across the entire parish, Hearn said. With Gustav, debris removal was targeted at particularly hard-hit neighborhoods, he said.
After Monday, contractors and DPW officials will determine if any adjustment is needed to the number of trucks collecting debris, Fuentes said.
Interim DPW Director David Guillory said curbside debris pickup can’t start until the trucks can safely get down the roads.
“Clearing the roads will be our highest priority,” he said Thursday.
Crews were dispatched early Thursday morning to clear roads, he said.
There were about 120 reports of trees down or other debris blocking roads in the parish, Guillory said. As of Thursday about 50 had been cleared, he said. Guillory said crews hoped to have the clearing finished by Saturday morning.
“Once we get ramped up, it will be a pretty big operation,” he said, of moving on to the debris removal stage.
Hearn encouraged residents to place debris on the curbs as soon as possible.
Crews will concentrate on picking up wood debris first, he said. Other waste material should be put out separately, he said.
“Don’t mix anything in there with it,” Hearn said. “We recycle wood.”
Residents were also asked not to burn debris due to safety concerns, Guillory said.
For residents of Baker, debris will be picked up with normal trash collection, according to a news release from the city of Baker. For Zachary residents, wood debris pickup will begin Tuesday.
All other debris will be picked up by Waste Management, according to a news release.
Across the parish, many governmental offices will return to normal hours Friday, though all public and most private schools remain closed until Tuesday, after the Labor Day holiday.
State government offices in East Baton Rouge Parish will be open Friday, according to a news release.
Capital Area Transit System buses resumed running again Thursday afternoon.
City-parish government offices are scheduled to reopen Friday.
That’s also the case for the Clerk of Court’s Office, Tax Assessor’s Office, City Court and federal and state courts in East Baton Rouge Parish.
LSU will hold classes as normal. No classes are scheduled for Southern until Tuesday, but employees should report Friday as normal. Classes at Capital Area Technical College and Baton Rouge Community College will resume Tuesday.
Lester Kenyon, Ascension Parish government spokesman, said the parish has not engaged a debris contractor and has not yet set a schedule for debris pickup. Many roads in the parish still are flooded, with more high water possible through the weekend.
Gonzales city employees will spend Friday picking up debris and may return Saturday if the amount of debris is more than expected, Mayor Barney Arceneaux said.
He said that city officials were pleasantly surprised to find debris from Hurricane Isaac less than they feared.
“We dodged a bullet on this one. It certainly was more of a rain event than a wind event for us,” Arceneaux said.
Arceneaux said the amount of debris led city officials to choose not to engage their debris contractor.
“We do have one, but because of the small amount, we are going to do it ourselves,” he said Thursday.
In a statement, Arceneaux also said workers will focus on vegetation only first and will then come back for construction and demolition debris and regular trash.
He asked residents to sort their trash.
State and parish government offices, as well as public schools in Livingston Parish will be closed Friday and reopen on Tuesday.
Residents are asked to place debris on the curb. Parish Department of Public Works employees will assess the amount and then make a determination on whether the parish will need to engage a contractor, said Layton Ricks, parish president.
West Baton Rouge Parish schools will be closed Friday and reopen Tuesday.
The courthouse will be closed, but parish employees are to report to work.
The District Attorney’s Office and the Sheriff’s Office will be open as normal.
No information on debris collection was available Thursday night, though trash pickup scheduled for Friday and Monday will proceed as scheduled.
Advocate staff writers Rebekah Allen, Koran Addo, David Mitchell, Terry Jones and Heidi Kinchen contributed to this report.
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