By Julie Bonnin

With virtually no Houston streets untouched by Hurricane Ike’s monumental devastation, crews from the city’s waste department, aided by waste removal workers who have come from other cities (and at least one local pachyderm), have their work cut out for them.

City spokeswoman Marina Joseph says the numerous uprooted and downed trees and branches collected from the nation’s fourth largest city is expected to amount to 4 to 7 million cubic yards. (In 2001, following Hurricane Alicia, about 1 million cubic yards of tree waste was collected in three months time).

The huge amount of storm debris comes just in time to inaugurate the city’s first tree waste recycling program – which had been scheduled to begin in November. Instead, the city will recycle as much of the storm waste as possible, Joseph says, then make a decision about when it will launch the every other month schedule for tree waste recycling. In the meantime, Houston has posted some advice for homeowners placing storm debris out for curbside pickup, such as asking residents to cut tree branches and trunks into 8-12 foot lengths.

One bright spot in the tree cleanup – a three-year-old Houston Zoo elephant named Tucker pitched in with removing downed tree branches at the Zoo, located in downtown Houston. Tucker’s willingness to help wasn’t unprecedented. In other neighborhoods, neighbors shared chainsaws and cold drinks as everyone picked up debris.

(Photo Credit: The Houston Zoo)

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