Victoria's planning speeds up tree debris removal


Life can be as unpredictable as a hurricane.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't try to be ready, though. The city of Victoria showed this with its debris removal program.

About five years ago, Rick McBrayer, promoted in 2014 to Victoria emergency management coordinator, encouraged the city and county to put a disaster plan in place. Having a plan makes the local government eligible for an extra 2 percent of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's reimbursement for disaster recovery expenses.

Part of the disaster plan includes debris removal. For the past four years, the city and county have contracted with AshBritt Environmental for debris removal.

There is no cost if a disaster doesn't strike. Hurricane Harvey is the first time this contract has been used.

After Harvey did strike, having the contract in place meant AshBritt immediately began working to remove debris. Some other Texas cities did not have this contract in place and had to scramble after the storm struck to even start cleanup.

Yes, Victoria still has a lot of debris on many streets, but the size of this project is staggering. Harvey left an estimated 202,000 cubic yards of trees debris around the city.

To get a better sense of this volume, picture 202,000 standard-size pickup trucks. A cubic yard will fill the bed of a single standard-size pickup.

This total doesn't include Riverside Park, where Harvey dumped another 100,000 pickup loads of debris.

If you can't picture 300,000 pickup trucks, think of this staggering total another way: AshBritt has been picking up an average of 8,000 cubic yards a day, or 56,000 cubic yards per week.

In a typical year without a hurricane, the city picks up 22,000 cubic yards. That's right - one week of debris pickup after Harvey is 21/2 times the amount the city usually picks up in an entire year.

Harvey dealt a terrible blow to our urban forest. We will be feeling this loss for decades to come.

But the city of Victoria, because of its planning, will be cleaned up soon. About a month after Harvey struck, the city has picked up almost 70 percent of this monster-sized pile of debris.

This opinion reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.

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