GONZALES — The big grapple trucks that scoured unincorporated Ascension Parish earlier this month for debris from severe storms that tore through south and central Louisiana late last month collected 6,000 to 10,000 cubic yards of material, officials said.
The estimated total volume of limbs, leaves and other debris would be enough to cover 4 to 6 acres of land with debris 1 foot deep.
Chief Administrative Officer Ken Dawson said the total “is probably right within range” of what officials expected when they authorized parish contractor DRC Emergency Services to pick up the debris.
“From everything I heard, it went smoothly. It went very well,” Dawson said Friday of the debris pickup.
DRC brought in six grapple trucks, each with capacity of 100 to 150 cubic yards per load, and the trucks crisscrossed the parish for more than a week collecting debris left at the curb. The debris was brought to the parish-owned Lamar-Dixon Expo Center near Gonzales.
For several days in the middle of the month, residents also could drop off debris at Lamar-Dixon that was then burned by the parish, Lester Kenyon, parish government spokesman, said. The 247-acre multiuse facility near La. 30 and Interstate 10 has about 120 acres of vacant land.
The band of storms that raked across southeast Louisiana on April 27 spawned five weak tornados, though none in East Baton Rouge or Ascension parishes. Only about 1.3 inches of rain fell in Gonzales, according to federal weather data.
But damaging straight-line winds also reached up to 80 mph, the U.S. National Weather Service reported, as trees, branches and power poles were knocked down and power was out for 176,000 Entergy customers, some of them for days.
DRC has a standing three-year contract with the parish for debris removal after major storms. Because of that, the parish was able to quickly engage DRC to remove the debris in May with a $60,000 lump sum contract, parish officials said.
Unincorporated Ascension Parish does not have municipal trash service, but it does have private companies such as Dale’s Garbage Service and Waste Pro of Louisiana that offer a range of trash services, but they do not pick up debris after major storms.
“We don’t do any kind of debris pickup or curb-side pickup,” said Dustin Foster, an assistant with Dale’s Garbage of St. Amant.
Waste Pro of Louisiana, which has called itself Ascension’s largest trash service, does offer the rental of large roll-off trash bins, but Lori Estey, a Waste Pro dispatcher, said the company’s trash trucks do not have the capacity to pick up large tree limbs and other kinds of debris left by a storm.
Two to three years ago, parish officials discussed creating non-exclusive franchise agreements with private trash companies in a bid to boost the range of collection services. But even under that proposed deal, which sparked opposition and never materialized, companies would not have handled major storm debris collection.
Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.