July 13, 2011 - The City of Knoxville's Public Service Department crews are still picking up tons of brush in hard hit areas from the June 21 storm that knocked down hundreds of trees and will continue to concentrate on cleanup efforts for at least three more weeks.
The department hopes to resume its regular brush schedule on August 1.
Since June 21, crews - often working overtime - have removed 5,320 tons of brush from Knoxville streets or more than 10 million pounds. That's about four times what they hauled over the same period at this time of year.
Crews took 1,791 truck loads to the city's mulch contractor, Shamrock Organic Products, since the storm which blocked dozens of streets and left more than 120,000 Knoxville Utility Board customers without power.
Chad Weth, planning coordinator for Public Service, said the department's service area managers met Tuesday morning, "and the general consensus was three to four weeks before most of our managers felt like they could be finished," but we hope to resume the majority of our normal operations by August 1.
Initially after the storm the department worked through the night trying to open the way for emergency responders and utility crews and clearing roads before spending the next week working 12 hour days and on the weekend.
Several crews are still working overtime, whether it be continuing to clear the large amounts of brush that remains, or clearing stormwater drains, pipes and ditches.
David Brace, the city's director for public service suspended regular brush collection the day after the storm so crews could focus on neighborhoods that suffered the heaviest damage first. Instead of following the normal schedule the managers of the city's six service areas are regularly assessing the situation before deciding where to use their resources on a particular day.
Each of the service areas are divided into ten sections, or maps, and normally crews can clear a map in a day. That means that public service will pick up brush across the entire service area during a 10-day span.
Since the big storm Weth said it has been taking two-to-four days to clear a single map.
"A good example is Cumberland Estates," Weth said. "We took 240 loads out of Cumberland Estates and that's a neighborhood that you could normally cover in a day. They were in there over a week."
"Where areas got hit hard, that's where we need to be," he added.