After six months of snow, Robert and Diana Clarillos and their three children are facing a spring cleanup job like they have never seen before.
The November ice storm ripped thick limbs from their 50-year-old walnut and elm trees. It showered their Greenacres home with a carpet of twigs that the couple has stacked like funeral pyres in the back yard.
“What a pain,” Robert Clarillos, a Washington Water Power Co. gas line serviceman, says as he drags a 200-pound bough to the wood pile. “I wish somebody could come in and do all this for me, but I’m not rich.”
As spring approaches in the wake of the devastating ice storm, property owners from Medical Lake to Coeur d’Alene are scrambling to remove debris and decide whether to spend money on maintenance crews, landscapers and new trees.
Long lines form at the county waste transfer stations, and nurseries and yard care companies hope that money from customers will rain down this spring.
Property owners calling for maintenance workers and tree trimmers may have to wait until summer.
“We’re booked out through April,” says Senske Lawn and Tree Care manager Tom Talkington, who increased the number of crews from two to five to handle the extra business.
However, nursery owners are skeptical the ice storm will create immediate demand for replacement shrubs and trees. They say homeowners and parks officials may be unenthusiastic about replacing lost plants if they can’t make insurance claims or collect federal disaster relief money. They simply may have to be satisfied with a clean yard.
“After people clean it up, they’ll say, ‘Hey! This looks pretty good,”’ says Mel Shaw, co-owner of Mel’s Nursery Floral & Gifts on North Division. “But in time, we’ll see an increase in replacement planting.”
On Spokane public property alone, the ice storm killed 3,000 trees and broke limbs on 25,000 others, says city horticulturist Jim Flott. He estimates it would cost more than $2.4 million to remove, replace and prune dead and damaged trees.
Millions more would be spent by private property owners to restore their landscape. Officials are urging homeowners to get a professional opinion before winding up the chain saw.
“I imagine we’ll see people pruning incorrectly, taking trees out that don’t need to be removed,” says Ty Ullman, owner of Clearwater Landscape Inc.
But at the Clarillos home, there’s little left to prune. A few broken limbs still swing in the wind, but the most of those weakened by a coat of ice last fall are becoming fireplace fodder.
“This is going to be a summer-long project,” Clarillos sighs.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo