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Over 2 days after storm, Omaha residents still picking up the pieces

Posted at 6:08 PM, Jul 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-12 19:13:37-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — You can walk 40 or 50 feet down Franklin Street, near 88th and Blondo, in Omaha and see large tree debris lined up around the curb. Neighbors and strangers helped chop it up and pick it up and now the residents here are trying to figure out how to get rid of it.

“So we spent seven hours, at least chainsawing, pulling branches, pulling stuff up, basically making what ended up being a pretty effective barricade of branches,” said Ben Oltman.

That ‘barricade of branches has been Oltman’s project for a couple of days now. He's helping out his parents after getting rocked by the Saturday morning storm.

Now, he has no idea how he’ll get rid of thousands of pounds of wood and tree brush.

“Magic? I expect that the city is going to come through and do something about this because truckloads, bundles, there’s literally tons, tons of branches here, we’re talking thousands of pounds of branches,” Oltman said.

Communications Director for the Omaha Mayor’s Office, Carrie Murphy says residents can put tree debris in trash bags, take it to one of six drop-off sites or bundle it for trash pickup, but large amounts of tree debris needs to be picked up by a private contractor.

The city says that’s been the policy for years, but Bridget Donovan, who’s the sister of the homeowner, said it was different after the snowstorm of 1997.

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“The city came and picked up stuff, and I know that because this house was hit hard in '97, also — we’ve been here before,” said Donovan.

They weren’t the only ones picking up pieces Monday. The top of a 75-foot tree went down around 50th and Lafayette.

Roger Meyer went outside, saw the damage and made sure to clear some of the street and nearby fire hydrant.

“That took me about eight hours but it’s clear enough that the fire department can get to the fire hydrant,” said Meyer.

He hired a self-described jack-of-all-trades, Scott Hogan of Hidden Talent Care, to pick it up and Hogan cleared it Monday.

“The best thing to do is when you drive by a house like this, knock on the door and let them know that you’re here to help,” said Hogan.

His startup doesn’t have top-of-the-line equipment, so he’s been doing the dirty work for a chaotic few days.

“When you go to unload, I got to go inside there and pitchfork it out, you know, and do it like that, but you know, you gotta start somewhere,” said Hogan.

The storm hit Elmwood Park hard. Huge trees were sprayed across the park and it was closed Monday. City crews were working to get the park back to normal.

As of Monday afternoon, more than 25,000 customers in Omaha were without power, including Dennis Lindsey, who’s trying to make do.

“As well as you can, open windows up when it gets warm, close the windows. Hopefully, you have a little air that is a little cooler than the outside, but there’s not really much you can do,” said Lindsey.

The storm also took out a tree around 38th and Nicholas, which Lindsey hopes gets picked up soon.

“What we’re nervous about is somebody’s going to come, because we don’t have any street lights, so they’re going to come screaming down this road at night and tear into that. There’s no barriers, no blinking lights, there’s no tape, there’s no reflecting signs, nothing,” said Lindsey.

Murphy says those six pickup sites are the most anybody in the city can remember having at one time. For the city pickup service, city trucks will be following the garbage trucks and she said with all the debris, delays are inevitable.

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