Omaha leaders give update on storm cleanup, disaster declaration

Photo: Omaha Parks Foundation

(Omaha, NE) -- Omaha leaders say widespread large tree debris cleanup by city crews will start on Friday following last weekend's historic thunderstorm.

On Thursday, Mayor Jean Stothert gave an update on the state of debris cleanup and the disaster declaration submitted to Governor Pete Ricketts. “It’s all hands on deck right now,” Stothert said.

During her update, Stothert encouraged residents to continue utilizing the city’s four debris drop-off sites, which are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily through Friday, July 23. Meanwhile, starting Monday residents can also put their large limbs on the curb for pick up by city crews.

Stothert said tree and debris removal services have slowed Omaha trash pick-ups. As a result, FCC is operating a day or two behind in some areas as they continue picking up debris along with curbside collection. Brown yard waste bags for debris cleanup are also being collected and don’t have to have the stickers normally required for pick-up.

Residents are asked to “be patient” and leave their carts out, the mayor said, noting that FCC expects all trash and recycling will be picked up by Friday and all yard waste will be collected by Saturday. Yard debris left curbside does need to be bundled with yarn or twine and should be 4 feet or less with a diameter of 6 inches or less so that it weighs about 40 pounds, making it manageable for FCC crews. “If you can’t pick it up, we can’t pick it up,” Stothert said.

Those requiring assistance with that, such as the elderly or people with disabilities, are advised to call 211 for help. A local nonprofit is assisting the city with that support, coming “with personnel and chainsaws” to help get large debris to the curb. Volunteers may be needed, Omaha Public Works Director Bob Stubb said, promising the city would be releasing more information about the nonprofit.

Meanwhile, the city has adjusted its plan for pick-up crews citing efficiency and following the model used for snow removal rather than following the FCC schedule. The mayor said those crews will prioritize clearing large debris from 42 major boulevards on Friday and Saturday.

On Monday, four-person crews will begin focusing on large limb collection. That debris needs to be less than 6 feet long and 100 pounds, “otherwise it becomes almost impossible for us to pick them up.” City officials also asked residents not to block access to curbs with debris that needs picked up, and to keep sidewalks clear. Officials are also reassigning city employees from four departments to assist with clean-up efforts, she said.

Speaking about the emergency disaster declaration, Stothert said, “That would be first in a series of steps that we will take to apply for state and federal aid to reimburse local governments for the costs associated with the storm damage." She said after she signed the declaration, it would be sent to Governor Ricketts and then on to the President.

She said there was a minimum need of about $2 million that is required for such an application, “and we’ve far exceeded that.”

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