By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
The arduous task of removing piles of broken tree limbs in the aftermath of a catastrophic ice storm is expected to take two to three months.
“I can’t believe the volume of what we have out there,” Yukon City Manager Jim Crosby said. “It’s quite tremendous.”
There’s no way all the storm-related debris can be hauled off in just one month, Crosby added.
“I’m telling you, we’re not going to make it, in looking at it,” Crosby said when updating the city council Nov. 3 on storm clean-up efforts. “I think it will take us a couple months to catch up and get through.”
Crosby advised council members to drive around Yukon to “see the sheer volume of the trees that are pulled to the curb.”
“It’s incredible,” Crosby said.
The City of Yukon’s chief administrator estimated this week that residents were 70-75% finished cutting their limbs and leaving them curbside to be hauled off.
At an emergency meeting last week, the council renewed the City of Yukon’s contract with Arbor Masters Tree Service for emergency storm debris removal.
The contractor – with help from City of Yukon personnel – is tasked with removing mountains of broken tree limbs and brush across the community.
“We’re starting to pick up limbs in the area with people who are on the Tuesday trash route,” Crosby reported Tuesday night. “We’re moving limbs as quickly as possible.”
Arbor Masters has four large trucks and trailers in Yukon collecting large volumes of limbs. City employees are helping too, hand-loading smaller amounts into trucks.
Tree clean-up crews are making initial sweeps through Yukon neighborhoods to pick up storm debris that residents have piled curbside. They’ll return later to collect more broken tree limbs that hadn’t yet been left during the first pass.
“We’re trying to respond as quickly as possible,” Crosby said.
The city manager is providing council members with daily reports detailing the amount of storm debris being hauled off – by the City of Yukon’s contractor, city crews and the public.
“We’ll keep the council informed on a daily basis, so you understand the enormity of the situation,” Crosby advised.
Ward 4 Council Member Aric Gilliland asked if the City of Yukon could inform residents when to expect crews to be in their neighborhoods to remove the debris.
“We’ll do everything we can to let people know we’re coming through,” Crosby assured council members.
The city’s social media accounts and local press outlets will be used to notify the public.
The city council is expected to lease a large tub grinder to chop the storm debris into mulch.
Meanwhile, a “Big Trash Day” set this fall will be postponed until after all the storm debris removal is finished.
YUKON’S GOT THE POWER
By Tuesday night’s city council meeting, electrical power had been restored to about 90% of Yukon homes and businesses.
Most Oklahoma City metro-area OG&E customers were expected to have power back by the end of this week.
In an email to customers, OG&E said they had 3,800 restoration personnel in the field working day and night to restore power for its customers.
“As we complete restoration in one area, we’ll reallocate those crews to other areas so we can maximum restoration effort,” according to a mid-week email update.
Yukon’s power outages dropped from about 7,500 on Oct. 28 to less than 400 by Nov. 5. But even when power is back fully, more work looms for OG&E crews.
“When everybody’s restored, it’s not finished yet,” Crosby warned. “We still have a lot of low-hanging lines … and lines that are down with all of our streetlights. It’s going to take some time for them to get through.”
An OG&E report indicated roughly 75% of customers with power outages were in the Oklahoma City metro.
“Their report showed they had 875 poles that had been down, 795 cross-arms and 133 transformers; and 178 transformer structures had been damaged or destroyed,” Crosby shared with council members. “They’re having to bring transformers in from outside the state because of the enormity of what’s happened.”
With so many people without power, the City of Yukon opened the Jackie Cooper Gym as an emergency shelter. Mayor Shelli Selby stopped by one night when 12 people were staying there.
“That doesn’t sound like a lot at our shelter, but to those 12 people, that was warmth and Internet for them, and some food,” Selby said. “That was a Godsend for those 12 people.”