LITTLE ROCK If storm cleanup efforts in Little Rock continue at the current pace, the debris lining many city streets won't be fully picked up until mid-summer, officials said Tuesday.
But a pending Presidential Disaster Declaration could free up federal funds that would hasten the immense effort, city officials said.
According to a report presented to the board of directors by City Manager Bruce Moore, the Federal Emergency Management Agency estimates the Christmas night ice and snow storm caused 22,000 tons of storm debris such as fallen trees and branches.
As of Monday, city crews have removed 1,300 tons, averaging about 110 tons hauled to the city landfill each day.
Moore's report says it would take another 200 days to get the rest cleared if the project continues at the current pace. That would have the storm removal complete around July 27.
Moore said the city is awaiting word from FEMA on whether the damage will result in a Presidential Disaster Declaration, which would allow independent contractors to be hired by the city, adding more manpower to the cleanup effort. Moore said costs would be covered 75 percent by the federal government and 12.5 percent by the state if the declaration is issued.
"You know based on our past experience, we believe we have met the threshold, but at the end of the day, it's FEMA's recommendation to the president," Moore said, noting Little Rock's last ice storm generated 29,000 tons of debris and did qualify for assistance.
In the meantime, crews are still working to get to the hardest-hit areas. Residents are encouraged to call 311 to alert the city to storm debris, a city spokesman said.
Moore urged patience regardless of what happens with the federal assistance.
"Even if we contract it out, we're looking at months before we get it all cleaned up," he said. "Hopefully [residents will] be patient with us. We're trying to move as quickly as we can. But when you're talking about 22,000 tons of debris, there's a lot out there."
If the declaration doesn't come through, the city could possibly look at using contingency money to pay for speeding up the debris removal, Moore said, though there are no firm plans to do that.
The report presented at the meeting offers a glimpse into the impact of the storm, which iced trees before dropping about 10 inches of snow on Little Rock in its first Christmas Day snow in more than 80 years. It also knocked out power to tens of thousands of people, including about 90,000 in Little Rock.
According to the report, crews have been called to more than 1,100 locations to remove storm debris. Public works officials through Jan. 1 had already spent $255,510 on the storm, using overtime to have teams work overtime removing debris, clearing streets and patching potholes.