BAY MINETTE – Debris collected from Hurricane Sally has exceeded the total amount picked up after Hurricane Ivan, county commissioners and contractors said Tuesday.
While 16 years apart, both hurricanes made landfall in Gulf Shores on the same date, Sept. 16. Sally was a Category 2 storm with top winds of 105 miles an hour in 2020. Ivan was a Category 3 hurricane with winds of 120 miles an hour when it came ashore in 2004.
Reid Loper, vice president of Crowder Gulf, the company working with the county to collect debris, said that while Sally was listed as a weaker storm, it did more damage.
“For Hurricane Sally, through close of business as of Nov. 15, we have removed 2,735,000 cubic yards of debris,” Loper told Baldwin County commissioners. “To put that into perspective over a six-month period for Hurricane Ivan approximately 2.6 million cubic yards were removed, total, for that response. Within 50 days of operation we have already removed more than what Hurricane Ivan produced.”
Crowder Gulf also did much of the cleanup following Hurricane Laura when that Category 4 storm struck Lake Charles, La., earlier this year. Loper said the debris totals from Laura and Sally are similar.
“In the first 30 days, Baldwin County actually exceeded the debris removal volumes more than a Category 4 storm and we’re also right in line with what’s been removed in the first 50 days on the Category 4,” Loper said. “Be it that Sally was a Category 2 storm, it’s presenting itself much more as a Category 4 in level of debris and volumes. So that’s something to take note for sure. We got hit hard.”
Commissioner Charles “Skip” Gruber said that while winds from Hurricane Sally were not as strong as Ivan or Laura, the storm moved much slower and struck the area for a longer time. He compared the effect to Hurricane Frederic, which hit the area in 1979.
“Hurricane Frederic was a Category 4. Hurricane Sally was a Category 2, but it stayed here and stayed here and stayed here,” Gruber said. “Sally came and she didn’t want to leave. It finally left but there was a lot of devastation.”
The collection of debris from Hurricane Sally is continuing. Loper said first passes should be complete by November.
Gruber said he expects debris totals to exceed 3 million cubic yards before collection is complete. He said that amount of debris is going to take a long time to collect.
“When I get calls, I say, look, they’re coming, just hold on,” Gruber said. “There’s a lot of debris out there. I try to explain that we’re not going to jump around here and there. The county has been sectored off and they’re working in sectors. That makes it a whole lot easier for them to keep track of it.”
Commissioner Jeb Ball, whose district takes in north Baldwin County, said Sally left debris across the entire region and that damage is going to take time to collect.
“This is unprecedented what’s happening and for some people 50 days feels like 50 years. It’s a waiting process,” Ball said. “There was devastation not only at the beach, but all the way down here as well.”
Commissioner Billie Jo Underwood said she has also told residents that their material will be picked up as soon as possible.
“Please be patient,” she said. “It will happen. It will be over with. We will be cleaned up again one day.”