Work divided by ZIP codes
About two dozen trucks hit the roads Monday, focusing on homes in ZIP codes 70805 and 70815, as city-parish Department of Public Works workers and contractors began cleaning up debris from Hurricane Isaac.
“We’ve done a lot of riding around,” said Bob Hearn, an environmental engineer with the DPW and its debris pickup coordinator. “We do have some trees on the ground, yes. We do have some large loads, yes. But we have a lot of small piles in front of people’s houses.”
Wanda Anderson and Steward Mayweather were among the Baton Rouge residents who were trying to pile up debris to be picked up on Monday.
Anderson, her son Raymond Davis, and daughter Miracle Spears were working outside of their Madison Avenue home Monday morning.
“It’s a lot to be done,” Anderson said.
“It looks like we’ll be out here another two to three hours or so,” Spears, 18, said, adding they already had been working for two hours.
The family didn’t suffer any storm damage to their home, but they had plenty of tree limbs and branches strewn in their yard that needed to be broken down and placed on the side of the street.
“It just looks horrible,” Spears said.
Mayweather and his wife, Joann, spent time cleaning up the front yard of family friend Willie Mae Girtley’s Chalice Drive home.
The Mayweathers, who had been working for more than three hours, picked up tree limbs, raked leaves and help straighten out Girtley’s yard.
The 80-year-old New Orleans native, who was a friend of Joann Mayweather’s deceased parents, said she was grateful to have family and friends willing to lend a helping hand.
“It means the world to me because I can’t do it,” Girtley said.
Girtley said she left her home on Aug. 28 and spent two days at her brother’s house across town in Baton Rouge. During that time, she said, her neighbor raked up branches in her front yard.
This past weekend, Girtley’s brother came over and cleaned off her roof, and the Mayweathers helped place everything by the road on Monday after Girtley heard that the debris would be picked up starting on Labor Day.
Although the storm wasn’t as bad as Hurricane Gustav and didn’t damage her home, Girtley said she still had some limbs and debris in her backyard that would need to be cleaned, as well. She joked that she hoped she had some more friends to help with that task.
“There’s no way in the world I can do it,” Girtley said.
Steward Mayweather said he was happy to volunteer to help an old family friend of his wife’s.
“I just came over here to help her,” he said.
Baton Rouge’s 70805 ZIP code is an area generally bounded by Airline Highway to the north and the east, the Mississippi River to the west and Choctaw Drive to the south. The city’s ZIP code 70815 is an area generally bounded by South Choctaw Drive to the north, Airline Highway to the west, Old Hammond Highway to the south and Flannery Road to the east.
Hearn said DPW officials chose to start with the 70805 and 70815 homes because they are near the center of Baton Rouge, and the plan was to work from the city’s central core outward. He said workers first would concentrate on picking up all wood for recycling, and then return for other debris.
Once those two ZIP codes were completed, he said, workers would move on to two more.
“The ZIP codes we’re in today, we’ll be in again tomorrow,” Hearn said. “We made some progress in there today and intend to make some more progress tomorrow.”
Unlike in previous years, the DPW is focusing on ZIP codes for storm debris pickup this year instead of individual streets.
Hearn said he wasn’t sure how long it would take to finish the two ZIP codes, and the next zones that will be targeted will be released later in the week.
Hearn said the trucks, all of which are owned by Disaster Recovery Co., definitely would have to make multiple trips through neighborhoods, which could slow down the pickup process.
“Whatever it takes we’re gonna have to do it,” Hearn said. “We have to get the city-parish back to normal.”
Residents are being asked to separate their debris into different piles to aid the workers, Hearn said.
Large limbs should be separated from small branches and leaves, which should be in a different area than construction and demolition debris, he said.