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Charlotte County struggles to keep up with storm debris

County still dealing with effects of Dec. 21 storm
Posted at 6:44 PM, Jan 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-18 12:31:20-05

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — It’s been two weeks since severe storms tore through Southwest Florida, including a tornado touching down here in Fort Myers.

Reminders of that storm can still be seen, especially in Charlotte County, where hurricane force winds created more plant debris than the county can handle.

Piles of branches and leaves still line many streets in Port Charlotte, remnants of the wind storm that blew through Charlotte County on Dec. 21.

Although it’s been two weeks, the hurricane force winds created so much damage that the county’s waste collection agency, Waste Management, still hasn’t caught up.

“We have our crews working the maximum hours they can per day and per week,” said Dawn McCormick, director of communications for Waste Management. “We have brought in third party crews to also assist. We will be working Saturdays throughout the month of January to get caught up.”

Waste Management, which is contracted to collect the trash here in Charlotte County, says more than 90 percent of homes had yard waste after the storms. That’s triple the amount the company normally sees.

That volume grew even larger over the holidays when the county landfill was closed on Christmas and New Year’s Day. Even though McCormick says Waste Management is fully staffed, they couldn’t work those holidays.

Seasonal Port Charlotte resident Ellen Van Drunen saw for herself how much damage there was following the storms on Dec. 21. She also has seen just how hard Waste Management is working to clean it up.

“I was out on my morning walk and there were two gentleman there lifting all this debris by hand and putting it in the truck,” Van Drunen said.

And all that work came Wednesday, even though debris collection is scheduled for Thursday in Van Drunen’s neighborhood.

“I stopped them and said, ‘Did you change the day?’ He said nope we’re just doing cleanup because we’re behind,” Van Drunen said. “And I told him they’re Waste Management said they will be caught up with all the bundled debris by Jan. 15, while the larger piles will take a few weeks longer.

Waste Management officials did tell me that they are completely caught up with residential trash and recycling.