Isaac cleanup continues; FEMA office in Poplarville closes

Published 2:05 pm Friday, September 28, 2012

Pearl River County Emergency Management Director Danny Manley said that the FEMA office here closed on Thursday at 7 p.m.

He said anyone from the northern end of the county who needs to talk with a FEMA representative can do so at the Picayune office at the National Guard Armory on U.S. Highway 11 South in Picayune. That office remains open to handle all storm-related matters for homeowners suffering damage from Hurricane Isaac.

Manley said that, as of Thursday, 2,212 residents have applied with FEMA seeking help with storm-related damages resulting from Isaac, which pounded the area the last week of August.

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He said that if any resident’s aid request is turned down by FEMA, there is an appeal process open to them.

On Thursday, Les Dungan, of Dungan Engineering in Picayune, said that the seven work crews of contractor Hensley R. Lee of Picayune has picked up an estimated 10,000 cubic yards of debris in the 16 days they have been in the field.

“Everything is going smoothly,” said Dungan, who is the county project monitor. “Based on what they have done so far, it should be another two-to-three-weeks more before the project is completed.” He estimated the job is about 50 percent complete.

Dungan said there are 1,200 miles of public road in the county, and the contractor is scheduled to make two passes along roads where additional debris is piled up. He said the passes will be spaced by a weekend to allow residents extra time to get additional debris moved to the curbside.

Officials’ original estimates ranged between 300 and 600 homes damaged by Isaac, either from wind damage, but mostly from flooding, as area streams and rivers overflowed from Isaac’s torrential rains, Aug. 28 through 30. Officials now think that figure might have been a little high.

During that three-day period a rain gauge at the Picayune waste water treatment plant recorded 22 inches of rainfall, as the storm stalled when it moved ashore near Houma, La., Aug. 27.

Flooding occurred along East and West Hobolochitto creeks, the main Hobolochitto below the Hermitage in Picayune, and along the Wolf River and Pearl River.

One of the hardest hit areas was Westchester subdivision in west Picayune, which was inundated by flood waters from West Hobolochitto Creek as the waters tried to merge with East Hobolochitto to flow into the already backed up main Hobolochitto. Practically every home in the subdivision was flooded.

Crests on both streams reached historic levels.

Another hard-hit area was in East Picayune as Bay Branch backed up as it tried to flow into East Hobolochitto Creek. East Canal was flooded and blocked, and Loftin Street, north and south, was flooded, as well.

The Walkiah Bluff area on the Pearl River west of Picayune also experienced extensive flooding.

Federal, state and local officials moved quickly after the storm to provide help to storm victims. On Sept. 10, Pearl River County supervisors accepted the bid of Hensley R. Lee, LLC, of Picayune, who at $774,190 was low bidder on the contract for county debris removal.

The contract was signed on Wednesday, Sept. 12, and Lee’s crews went to work the same day removing storm debris. All debris is being taken to the central landfill at Millard for disposal. There is no burning allowed.

Lee’s crews had been at work 16 days as of Thursday, and officials said they expect the pickup project to continue on into mid-October. Lee is making two passes on each public road in the county, where needed, separated by a weekend, to allow residents plenty of time to move their storm debris to the side of the road. Work crews can’t go on private property to remove debris, officials said.

Supervisors have three times extended an emergency declaration covering the county so they can expeditiously handle matters pertaining to the cleanup and storm-related aid projects.

The federal disaster agency, FEMA, is paying for 75 percent of the costs associated with the cleanup, with the state and local governments splitting the remaining 25 percent, which is referred to as the “local match.”