Cost of OKC Debris Removal Adds Up as Outside Help Begins to Recede

  • Logan Layden

May’s tornados are still costing Oklahoma City. Every week, new bills for storm cleanup come in. So far, the city has paid contractors more than $1.1 million to haul debris away. And William Crum writes in Monday’s Oklahoman that number is expected to “rise substantially:”

By comparison, the city paid contractors about $7.5 million to haul away debris after a 2007 ice storm; charges to dump it ran an additional $2 million.

About 80 percent of the estimated 95,000 tons of debris from the May 20 tornado has been trucked to landfills from neighborhoods south of SW 134th and west of Santa Fe Avenue.

A contractor has removed about half the debris from the May 31 wind and rain storms that affected south Oklahoma City…

The City of Moore’s Pennie Embrey told StateImpact in June that debris removal is usually the biggest expense facing local governments following storms like these.

“That is one common denominator amongst everyone who was either completely destroyed, badly damaged — even minor damage is going to produce a good amount of debris,” Embrey says. “We have large amounts of debris just from a regular wind storm. So, this is unheard of, really, as far as the amount of debris.”

But most of that cost is picked up by the state and federal governments, at least initially. Communities are reimbursed nearly 100 percent of the cost of debris removal during the first 30 days after a storm, Jim Lewellyn, Oklahoma City’s debris removal manager, told the Oklahoman:

The reimbursement rate for the second 30 days is 94.5 percent, he said. Wednesday marks the end of the second 30-day cleanup period.

Lewellyn said Oklahoma City has close to 100 homes where owners have done nothing to begin removing debris.