Piles of leaves lining city streets are about to get a little messier with the addition of discarded Christmas trees.
The city is almost three weeks behind on leaf collection, said Justin Holland, the city's sanitation manager.
"We started about three weeks late because the leaves just didn't fall," Holland said.
Every year around this time, it's common to see a Public Works truck with a leaf vacuum sucking leaves into a truck. A number of problems, however, delayed collection
Warm weather kept leaves on the trees longer. "It's a major factor on how long leaves stay on," City Forester Gene Hyde said.
Wet weather made it difficult to pick up soggy leaves once they fell, Holland said.
On wet days, Public Works workers concentrate on trying to clear stormwater drains and pipes. Even after leaves dry and homeowners get them to the curb, the pick-up process can be slow, Holland said.
Hyde said the Public Works department has its hand full every year around this time.
"Timing of leaf pickup is tricky and it varies from year to year," he said.
Public works officials remind residents that Chattanooga offers free curbside tree pickup and operates a wood recycling center where trees are ground into mulch.
The county has six recycling centers that will accept trees through the end of January. Discarded trees may be sent to the Tennessee Department of Wildlife to be used as fish attractors.
The county highway department on Standifer Gap Road also grinds trees into mulch, which is available free to county residents.
Staff writer Judy Walton contributed to this report.