Weeks after Superstorm Sandy, the town and county highway departments are still cleaning their respective districts of the debris.
“This was a unique storm in the sense that there may not be a lot of branches, but a lot of very big trees fell down,” said Clarkstown Highway Department Superintendent Wayne Ballard.
In Clarkstown, Ballard said he’s using three methods to clean after the storm: a large claw, a backhoe with a claw and contractors.
“What it’s all about right now is it’s a race against time. We need to get all this debris picked up as fast as we can before mother nature gives us a snowstorm,” Ballard said. “Last week what happened could happen again so we need to make sure we get the town roads clean and opened up for everything.”
Another part of the cleanup in Clarkstown, Ballard said, was planning ahead before sending units out to make sure they covered the hardest hit streets.
“We’ve mapped out 30 of the most critical roads that were affected in the Town of Clarkstown and we’re sending all out equipment out there to pick up that debris in those areas, because if it should snow, being that the debris is in the road, it’s going to narrow the roadways and make it very difficult to plow that snow,” he said. “So that’s our game of attack.”
Orangetown Highway Department Superintendent James Dean said he and his workers are also racing against the winter clock.
“We have a very small window of opportunity to pick up leaves,” he said. “Obviously, we have no control over when they fall off the trees and we need to pick them up before any snowstorm and freezing rain. That hampers our leaf removal production because they’re harder to get up.”
Orangetown just started picking up leaves on Monday, Dean said, adding they opted to focus on all the brush first. He added that so far they’ve picked up about 13,000 cubic yards of brush. During their annual green waste removal program, which runs for seven months a year, they typically pick up about 25,000 cubic yards.
Dean said his department also brought in outside contractors to help with the pickup, which he said was approved by the town board and they might be able to get money back for through FEMA.
Rockland County Superintendent of Highways Charles"Skip" Vezzetti estimated that the county is more than 50 percent through its storm cleanup.
“We’re making good headway,” he said. “It’s going to take a while, maybe another couple of weeks. We have about 350 miles of curb line, essentially, and we have limited personal resources.”
He said they’ve cleaned up most of north Rockland, Clarkstown and parts of Orangetown. He added that there were a lot of trees down in Ramapo.
Dean said Orangetown is a little more than 40 percent done with its cleanup and Ballard said Clarkstown is about 15 percent through its process. Dean, Ballard and Vezzetti all said they take their brush to the Rockland County Solid Waste Management Authority.