Mola Lenghi, Arlington Reporter
The Arlington Public Works Department deployed crews on a massive cleanup effort to pick up debris and clear streets in the tornado damage zone so residents can start to get back to normal.
Thursday was as close to being back to normal as tornado-torn neighborhoods in Arlington have been in nine days thanks to an all-out cleanup blitz by the city.
City officials said crews have been working 12-hour shifts, seven days per week since the April 3 tornado hit to remove 35,000 cubic yards of tree limbs and housing debris from the city's southwest side.
"With all the trash and all the limbs and trees down, it's difficult to live and stressful to live," Mayor Robert Cluck said.
Officials estimate it is enough debris to fill 11 Olympic-sized swimming pools or stretch across the country from Key West, Fla., to Seattle.
"I was proud of my crews through the Super Bowl, with all the snow and ice removal, but this was a lot tougher, and they did what needed to be done," said Keith Melton, public works director. "We pulled in crews from our Water Utilities, Parks Departments and Tarrant County. Some of them were doing work totally out of their environment, picking up trash piles and putting it all into bins and they were very happy to do it. All of these employees put their heart into this effort."
The city ended on Thursday brush and debris cleanup from the storm.
The siding on Jordan Jones' home is still peeling off. There are holes in his house, and his roof needs repair. His neighbor's car windows are still shattered, the garage door is boarded up, and the fence has been uprooted.
But things are getting back to normal, he said.
"Wednesday, it was completely torn up over here and then this morning, they moved in with the heavy equipment operation, and they cleaned up north and south and everything and hauled everything away," Jones said.
Arlington has already spent nearly $2 million on the recovery effort, thanks to a disaster declaration that allows the city to immediately spend without waiting on City Council approval.
"We're still going to be OK," Cluck said. "We'll still have surplus at the end of this year, as we have for the last three years."
The surplus will likely come in handy as the city waits to find out whether it qualifies for federal disaster relief assistance. Cluck said he's not overly optimistic because the city likely will not meet the financial threshold it takes to qualify for federal aid despite more than 500 damaged homes.
Melton extended special thanks to Tarrant County Commissioner Andy Nguyen, Republic Services, Barson Utilities and Gra-Tex Utilities for assistance in the cleanup efforts.
The Department of Public Works will resume normal operations Friday. Anyone with additional storm-related debris should to call 817-459-6777.