Tumbleweeds invade Kennewick

KENNEWICK — Lara Grimes has had it up to her roof with windblown tumbleweeds.

The attack of the roly-poly plants began two months ago as winds from the south skittered the uprooted weeds toward Panoramic Heights and cart-wheeled them into Grimes' neighborhood.

"When we get the high winds, we get this problem. It's been like this for 10 years," she said Thursday, after surveying the wasteland of dried weeds amassed in her front yard.

This winter's assault saw weeds piled higher than Grimes, filling her driveway and jam-packing her front porch.

It's always bad, but even worse now because recent construction projects have cleared land in the Southridge area, making it easier for the wind to shove the weeds right up to Grimes' door.

Large trash containers were stuffed to overflowing but hardly made a dent in the mountains of weeds littering the street, so the 26th Avenue resident called for help.

But her plea to Kennewick City Hall a month ago brought little relief -- just one big truck hauled away one load from the thousands of weeds that line the yards of south-facing houses.

Grimes said someone at city hall said they couldn't spare any more employees to help rid her of the unwanted, uprooted plants. So thousands of the weeds remained wedged together in the residential landscaping, matted tight against retaining walls, trees and anything else that hasn't recently moved.

Grimes said one Kennewick police officer came by and drove over weeds that still were in the street, mashing them down, but that just created more debris to blow around.

When a second huge wave of tumbleweeds rolled into her neighborhood a week ago, Grimes went into full-attack mode and decided to push back.

Shoving the weed piles into the street could bring a ticket from the city and burning them in the street isn't legal either, she was told.

"They told me they don't have the manpower to help, and I can't put anything on the street. I can't burn them in my driveway, so what can be done?" Grimes asked.

Apparently not much.

"There is not an easy solution," said Peter Beaudry, Kennewick's director of Municipal Services, which handles public works issues.

Beaudry said burning tumbleweeds is allowed by city codes as long as it can be safely done. The Benton Clean Air Agency said tumbleweeds that blow onto your property can be burned at any time, regardless of the burn day, as long as no other vegetation is burned.

Beaudry said city crews used to help clear streets in Panoramic Heights of the tumbleweeds, but that was several years ago. "It has become a matter of resources for the city. We've had significant cuts in recent years," he said.

Once the vagabond weeds end up on a piece of property, it is that property owner's responsibility to take care of them, he said.

Beaudry suggested people plagued with tumbleweeds consider calling the city's garbage service, Waste Management, to see if neighbors can work a deal to make a neighborhood sweep of the nasty, noxious weeds.

But Grimes said she believes the city should have some role in clearing the tumbleweeds because they are a safety issue, both as fire and traffic hazards.

* John Trumbo: 509-582-1529; jtrumbo@tricityherald.com