Tips for debris cleanup after Sunday's storms

Keep garbage, recycling, vegetative debris in separate piles
Storm debris in Port St. Lucie
Posted at 11:43 AM, Apr 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-12 11:46:10-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Residents across Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast woke up to scattered debris and some damage after strong storms blew through Florida on Sunday.

Howling winds brought down trees and caused power outages across the region.

But before you start to clean up your yard or neighborhood, there are some tips you should be aware of to stay safe.

What should people do with fallen tree branches?

Vegetative waste, tree debris and stumps should be stacked separately from everything near the road and also away from any overhead obstacles like power lines, according to the Solid Waste Authority.


  • After a storm, household garbage bags will be collected first, so make sure you get your garbage to the road in bags or cans for picking up
  • Stack your vegetative waste, tree debris, and stumps separately from everything near the road and away from obstacles like power lines
  • Debris from building damage, such as roof tiles, are collected separately and at the end of the process

Chainsaws can help, but they can also lead to serious injuries.

The most important rule for chain saw safety is this: If you've never used one before, the morning after the hurricane is not the time to teach yourself. Serious injury or death can result. The off-season is a good time to learn.

About 40,000 chainsaw accidents and deaths happen every year, the Consumer Product Safety Commission says.

If you don't know what you're doing, leave this work to the professionals. If you are experienced with a chainsaw, remember these safety tips:

  • Wear a hard hat and ear and eye protection. Wear close-fitting long pants (preferably with protective chaps), gloves and steel-toed work boots. No bare feet, sandals or slippery shoes
  • Never work alone. Always have a helper. Keep children and pets away. Don’t work when you’re tired
  • Beware of broken or hanging branches, attached vines or a dead tree that is leaning. All can be hazardous to the saw operator
Downed trees in Boca Raton on April 11, 2021
Strong winds downed this large tree in Boca Raton near 215 Northeast 20th St. on April 11, 2021.

Do you have property damage?

If you sustained property damage and need to hire a contractor, here are some things to make sure you check before you make an agreement:


  • Know your contractor. A frequent problem is a "fly-by-night" contractor who takes deposits before starting work or final payments before finishing. Ask for a list of recent customers and call them for references.
  • Get at least three estimates. Be certain the estimates are itemized and are for the same work. Variations in the proposals should be noted.
  • Beware of repair businesses or individuals who solicit door-to-door, arrive in unmarked vehicles, have a post office box or temporary address, claim they are from another country or state and are in the area solely to help disaster victims or offer to work for you only if you secure the necessary permits.
  • If the repairs cost more than $2,500, file a Notice of Commencement with your local permitting office, and a notarized Release of Lien will ensure your home is not sold for monies not recouped by others that might not have been paid by the contractor. To obtain information about Florida's Construction Lien Law, call the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation at 850-487-1395
  • Check on the contractor's address, license and complaint history by contacting the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation through its website at or via telephone at 850-487-1395, or contact your city or county building department. For further complaint information, call the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352)

Click here for more advice on home repairs.

The Centers for Disease Control also offers a variety of tips to protect yourself and your loved ones during the cleanup after a storm.