Ice storm debris removal "picking up" on Grand Strand, Pee Dee roads

In mid-February, a devastating ice storm left behind thousands of broken tree limbs along Grand Strand and Pee Dee roads.

Nearly two months later, SC Department of Transportation officials say there's still plenty of cleanup left to do.

The cleanup crews are out in force this week scrambling to get it finished.

Crews were busy on SC Highway 90 Monday, grabbing broken tree limbs and hauling them away to a dump site near the DOT headquarters on Highway 701 outside Conway.

With 1,200 miles of state roads to clean up just in Horry County, and officials stress that it's actually double that amount since debris is on both sides of the road, DOT engineers say it's just not a job that can be done quickly.

"For every truck there is out there, they have to have a monitor, which is there with the truck making sure they cut the right limbs and the right amount, and they have to take pictures, take GPS coordinates. It's a lot of information that they have to do at every location," said Shannon Welch, DOT's maintenance engineer for Horry County.

State Tree Service, a private contractor from Sumter, is doing the cleanup in Horry and Georgetown counties.

A company spokesman told NewsChannel 15 they're more than halfway done and hope to have it nearly finished by the end of this week.

They're working the most heavily-traveled highways first.

"Which of course is 90, 905, 501, 701 and 17, get all those done and then they're going to concentrate on high volume secondary roads," Welch said.

As for county roads, Horry County's public works, engineering and storm water departments took care of that, and they finished two weeks ago.

Welch says he's satisfied with the progress on state highways so far.

He urges drivers to keep an eye out for the trucks over coming days, because the work is really "picking up."

"It's sped up the last couple weeks, so it's good to see it get going and the public's glad also."

Storm debris removed from state highways in Horry and Georgetown Counties will be taken to the International Paper Company plant in Georgetown.

There, it will be turned into fuel and other products.

South Carolina sustained an estimated $55 million in damage from February's ice storm.