‘Daylight to dark’: Aiken crews spent three weeks collecting, clearing debris post-Michael

November 18, 2018

Tropical Storm Michael generated triple the volume of yard debris normally seen and collected in Aiken, according to city officials, and the cleanup effort took three weeks of what was essentially around-the-clock work.

Tim Coakley, the acting City of Aiken Public Services director, said his crews worked “daylight to dark, six days a week” in the post-Michael environment. Volunteers were sought for Sunday work, as well, Coakley said.

“All the time sheets are just now being turned in,” the Public Services director said. “I saw some big numbers on those time sheets.”

Yard debris in Aiken is collected via grapple truck. Piles are often seen on the sides of the road.

The storm’s aftermath had a domino effect on the standard pickup process; the extra debris meant crews had to catch up. A Nov. 1 press release issued by the city stated “minor” debris removal delays would be felt through December.

The shear volume of the storm debris – whole trees, for example – presented itself sporadically, Coakley said.

“Some neighborhoods hardly had anything. … We’d go down one street, and it would look like a normal pickup day,” he said, “and we’d go around the corner and it would look like ice storm cleanup again.”

The 2014 ice storm wreaked havoc across Aiken County. Michael knocked down large trees, disrupted power and flooded roadways.

“We didn’t get a call out for Florence, not for a single tree,” Coakley said. “And we had 30 blocking the roads on Michael. It was no joke that night when it blew through.”

Coakley is proud of the work his department has since put in: He described it as “very much” satisfied.

“We’re really well positioned,” he said.

The director is also proud of the preparation and coordination that was exercised before, during and after the tropical storm swept through Aiken.

“We work hard with the Aiken Department of Public Safety and Aiken County Emergency Management,” Coakley said. “A lot of meeting and preparing goes on in the background.”

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