Debris Deadline Is Quickly Approaching

A back hoe gobbled up hurricane debris that had piled up on Central Avenue. Remnants of Mike Sullivan's home were in one of the piles.

"I done about gave up on them to tell you the truth," he said, referring to the debris removal teams suddenly on his street.

Sullivan said the last time he saw debris trucks on Central Avenue was five months ago. Far too long for Long Beach Mayor Billy Skellie. He couldn't believe the mess he saw on a recent drive near the Long Beach Gulfport line, especially with FEMA's debris removal deadline looming.

"Hopefully we're going to finish," the mayor said. "I mean our meeting today is to try and gear up a little stronger."

Mayor Skellie held what he called a cheerleading chat with the Mississippi Hauling contractors. They were hired to complete the final round of Long Beach's debris removal program. Kerry Ott heads up the Osyka, Mississippi company.

"We're going to make it. We're about half way through," Ott said.

The pressure is squarely on Ott and every other debris hauling company sent to south Mississippi to pick up Katrina's mess. FEMA will only pay for hurricane debris removal for another three weeks. After that, cities, counties, or property owners will get stuck with the tab.

David Ball is Long Beach's city engineer. He's overseeing the city's debris removal.

"It's difficult to estimate where we are as it seems that stuff just keeps coming," Ball said after meeting with the contractors. "We can get what's out there now. But as I said, probably on February 28, there will be piles that come out on February 28, and we won't be able to get to those. We can certainly get what's there now. And keep working toward that."

According to the latest FEMA statistics, 45 million cubic yards of hurricane debris have been scooped up across the state. About 26 million cubic yards of that mess was found in the three coastal counties. An additional 54,000 cubic yards of Katrina debris have been pulled out of area waterways.