Garbage trucks a welcomed sight in Huntington Woods neighborhood

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News

Huntington Woods – — Residents of Huntington Woods on Saturday got a much-needed hand in cleanup from heavy rains that nearly two weeks ago flooded freeways and basements throughout Metro Detroit.

Waste Management Systems, responding to a request from the 1.4-square-mile city, deployed 40 trucks from as far away as Lansing and Flint to pick up piles of trash that have lined residential streets for days. Beginning at 8 a.m., the garbage trucks started hauling away carpeting, couches, bookcases, wood paneling, doors, refrigerators and anything else destroyed by the mix of water and sewage that poured into basements.

The company is keeping its local landfills open longer to meet demand, and will be in Berkley tomorrow with about 20 trucks for a similar cleanup effort.

“We’re really responding to whatever the community needs,” said company spokesman Tom Horton. “The storm impacted a lot of people. We’re happy to be able to be part of the solution.”

Huntington Woods was hit particularly hard.

Residents on Saturday told stories of scenes never before witnessed in decades of living there, like people traveling by canoe along streets that took on as much as 8 feet of water. In some instances, large trees were felled by the storm and missed cars and houses by mere inches.

Other stories were more depressing: a family installed a new furnace hours before the rains fell, and another couple who is expecting a baby lost cribs, strollers and other items that were stored in their ruined basement.

After the flood waters subsided, curbs throughout the small community began piling up with trash. The city came through once to pick up what it could, but the waste kept mounting as the cleanup continued.

“Everybody’s front yard is filled with debris,” said 51-year-old Wendy McGough. “You couldn’t save anything.”

McGough lost a number of appliances in the flood, and is questioning how she’ll replace them with no flood insurance. She said the dump-trucks were a welcome sight amid a week of frustration.

“It’s been gross,” she said. “It’s exciting to see someone picking up the garbage.”

Even on streets where the water-soaked trash was removed, brown spots of dead grass left reminders of what had transpired on Aug. 11. But Sheryl Nens, a 36-year-old living a few blocks away from McGough on Hart Avenue, said the flood brought the community together.

“We all leaned on each other,” she said. “There was a lot of people helping other people. The human element of pulling together really came through.”

Nens lost a number of items, including appliances, doors and flooring, but has already replaced most of it and is trying to move on from the damage as quickly as possible. It appeared Saturday as if others are doing the same; the waste management vehicles were nearly matched in number by restoration vans and appliance trucks bringing in new washers, dryers and other big-ticket items.

Nens said the garbage cleanup will go a long way in boosting neighborhood morale.

“If all the trash was gone it would make me feel better,” she said. “It wouldn’t look like a war zone.”

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