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Officials: storm debris removal could take months

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- City officials said debris removal could take months in the wake of the Memorial Day weekend storm that wiped out power from 188,000 households.

Public works director Robert Knecht said his department divided the city in to an 18-section grid and dispatched crews to each section every day since the storm.

First, they cleared roads. Once that was done, they started on debris removal, he said.

“We ask them, say, 'Here’s a map, here's a grid, clear that area.' We tell them to track it and document it so we can get reimbursed by FEMA,” Knecht said.

Fox Meadows resident and community activist Patricia Rogers questioned the system.

"The major thoroughfares are, you can tell they’ve been here. But the side streets, they really need to put a little more into it coming down,” Rogers said.

Rogers said the city was cleaning debris in East Memphis and Central Gardens as early as Saturday. She questioned why they were just getting to Parkway Village Wednesday.

“What do you have to say when you have people in Frayser and other parts saying they haven’t seen public works at all?”

“That’s not true. Solid waste crews were in Frayser all weekend,” Knecht said.

Rogers admitted she was easing up in her criticism of the city.

“Maybe in the next week or so I’ll be able to give a true assessment. But I do see progress,” she said.

City officials asked people to be patient as they make their rounds. They also asked people to call 311 to report homes with debris for the elderly and disabled. All 311 records will be turned over to FEMA in an attempt to get federal assistance for homeowners, Knecht said.