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Mayor Helps Start Debris Cleanup; Congressmen Tour Damage In Jacksonville

The city of Jacksonville’s total damage costs as a result of Hurricane Irma are still unknown as workers are beginning to pick up trash and debris this week.

Mayor Lenny Curry said the amount of debris seems like it’ll be much more than what was collected last year’s Hurricane Matthew.

“We don't have firm estimates at this point, but it looks like it will likely be more than Matthew, just in the debris. I think the debris on Matthew was around 700,000 cubic yards and we’re estimating 800,000 to a million on this,” he said.

JEA estimates storm costs to the utility are somewhere around last year’s levels — $30 million — and a separate statewide debris cleanup estimate clocks total costs at $273 million.

Curry said the largest phase of city cleanup is set to begin in five days and he’s encouraging residents to bag up as much debris as they can for regular garbage pick-up.

Credit JEA
Hurricane Irma debris pick up is underway in Jacksonville.

Meanwhile, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Northeast Florida Congressman John Rutherford toured damaged areas in Jacksonville Wednesday, including Riverside and San Marco.

Ryan appeared briefly on a Jacksonville International Airport tarmac with members of the Florida Congressional Delegation before boarding a Coast Guard C-130 for Tampa and Miami.

The Speaker did not make a statement nor did he answer any questions from the local press corps. Members of his security team created a buffer around the congressional motorcade, keeping reporters at bay, before he was whisked away.

However, members of the Florida delegation, including Jacksonville U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, did speak amid the thunderous whirring of propellers.

Rutherford told reporters, that unlike after Hurricane Matthew, local governments can rest assured financial help to Irma-ravaged areas will be disbursed in a timely manner. He said Florida’s Emergency Management Director expects Matthew reimbursements to hit Florida in as soon as a few weeks.

“Whatever the issue was at the state level, they’ve got that resolved,” Rutherford said.

Rutherford said he’s working with his colleagues in the house to ensure Jacksonville, and

Florida more broadly, gets its piece of a $15.5 billion Federal Emergency Management disaster relief package lawmakers passed to keep the agency afloat after a series of storms beginning with Hurricane Harvey in Texas and ending with Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

“We have now the continuing resolution that is going to help fund FEMA and the disaster relief through December 8th,” he said. “So, those funds are there right now, available. We just have to determine what the needs are and make the requests.”

The freshman Congressman said local and state governments can count on the federal dollars when crafting their budgets this year.

Ryan Benk can be reached at, at (904) 358 6319 or on Twitter at @RyanMichaelBenk.

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.