Tornado debris removal begins in the Pine Belt

Tornado debris removal begins in the Pine Belt

Pine Belt counties hit by Saturday's tornado are starting debris removal and outlining how citizens can help expedite clean up.

"We begin what's kind of the second phase of the disaster," said Jody Waits, Lamar County administrator. "Now we're beginning the clean up of the debris. Lamar County's work crews will be out and about in the areas the were affected picking up the debris off of the county right of way."

Dozens of trucks and crews began debris removal on Sullivan Kilrain Road in Lamar County on Thursday.

"Our county already operates a fleet of trucks where we do limb pick up on a regular basis, so we already had the workforce, the equipment ready to go," Waits said. "We're blessed to be able to get on it pretty quick to help these people get their lives back in order as best they can."

Petal Mayor Hal Marx said his city is also already picking up debris, but said the city only has four trucks right now.

"We will be approving a engineering firm (Friday) to oversee our effort, so that we comply with FEMA guidelines and can be reimbursed," Marx said. "After we hire the firm to monitor our pick up, we will be hiring outside contractors to help. That will add many more trucks and crews to the operation."

Both Waits and Marx are asking people to separate debris if they can.

"If they could separate the vegetative, that would be trees and limbs and that sort of thing, from the construction and demolition if they've got structures that were damaged," Waits said. "If they had any white goods, appliances, (if) all those things could be separated, that would be great. Anything that's hazardous, set it aside. Electronics, keep them in separate piles. Obviously, don't put anything on a fire hydrant or out in the middle of the road if possible."

Waits said household garbage can be put into garbage cans and will be collected as usual.

While Marx asks residents to try to separate their trash, he said the city will still pick it up if it is already piled together. Piles should not be taller than six feet.

Right now, Marx estimates clean up will take three to four months in Petal, but hopes to beat that estimate.

In Lamar County, Waits said pick up should take three to four weeks "of intense work," with long-term rebuilding and recovery efforts taking several months. He said debris removal will happen largely on Fridays and Saturdays, and asked drivers to be careful while crews and residents are out cleaning.