Storm cleanup crews have made at least one pass through the vast majority of East Baton Rouge, collecting more than 800,000 cubic yards of debris from Hurricane Ida, the city-parish said Friday.
That’s enough debris to create a tower on top of the field in Tiger Stadium that rises 375 feet into the air — higher than most of the stadium that surrounds it.
The city-parish’s two debris removal contractors, DRC Emergency Services and AshBritt, were finalizing their first “comprehensive pass” through the parish on Friday and will begin circling back through to collect missed debris. Crews have already gone through some areas two or three times, according to the city-parish.
Officials said they expect the cleanup to be completed by Thanksgiving.
The first complete pass through the parish took a little more than a month-and-a-half to complete after Ida made landfall as a Category 4 storm southeast of Baton Rouge and brushed past the parish to the east as a strong Category 1. Gusts of more than 60 mph were measured in Baton Rouge, downing trees, powerlines and damaging structures.
The 800,000 cubic yards of debris that has been collected is more than double the initial estimate for the total amount of debris that Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Kelvin Hill gave near the end of September.
East Baton Rouge expects it'll take until Thanksgiving to pick up around half-a-million cubic yards of debris from Hurricane Ida.
More than 40 debris removal trucks and haulers with DRC and AshBritt are operating in the parish, according to the city-parish. The crews are concentrated in the southern half of the parish and neighborhoods most impacted by the storm, the city-parish said.
Metro Council in September approved $9 million from the city-parish budget to pay for cleanup because the removal companies’ contracts are structured on a per-event basis.
Much of that expense will be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The White House in September extended a 30-day 100% federal cost share to 45 days, which expired Oct. 11. FEMA will now reimburse 75% of the cleanup expenses from after Oct. 11 and 25% will be covered by the city-parish.
Ida’s aftermath marks the third time this year the city-parish’s debris removal service has been required — it’s by far the largest cleanup. Roughly 72,000 cubic yards of mostly wood waste were collected after a deep freeze gripped much of the South in February. After flooding in May, about 30,000 cubic yards of debris were collected, officials said at the time.
Both cleanups took about half the amount of time that the Ida collection is expected to last.
The last time the city-parish faced this amount of debris in need of pickup was 2008 after Hurricane Gustav swept through the region. Speers said it took a year to collect the million cubic yards of debris left behind.
Residents can view instructions on how to collect debris online at brla.gov/recovery. Cleanup crews have to bypass homes that don't have properly separated piles, officials said.
Residents can also track the progress of the cleanup through an online map created by the city-parish, which is accessible through the city-parish recovery page.