August 21, 2014 in City

Storm-felled trees still keeping cleanup workers busy

By The Spokesman-Review
Dan Pelle photoBuy this photo

Paul Heindl, of Heindl Tree Care, and Matthew Mellott remove a storm-damaged tree on the Whitworth University campus on Aug. 14.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

Falling on graves

Holy Cross Cemetery in north Spokane had 23 trees blow over in the storms, said John Fencik, director of Catholic Funeral and Cemetery Services of Spokane. The cemetery’s own workers are cleaning up the trees. Fencik said there has been no damage to monuments or buildings in the cemetery. He is unsure about damage to tombstones until the trees are cleared. The cemetery has remained open.

Use licensed arborist

Arborist Becky Phillips said homeowners seeking the lowest price for wood removal sometimes hire an unlicensed arborist. But arborists who aren’t properly trained and wearing the proper gear can be a danger to themselves or cause damage to the property. Insurance companies usually won’t cover damage caused by an unlicensed arborist. “This is dangerous work,” Phillips said.

Native trees, gone soft

Ponderosa pine trees in yards may be more susceptible to toppling in a windstorm than those found in forests, said John Jesseph, an arborist with Northwest Plant Health Care. Pine trees don’t require as much water as they often are given in a yard. When they’re overwatered, they don’t develop the deep roots needed to hold up such large trees. Also, lone trees in yards, which might once have been in a stand of trees that acted as a wind shield, are more prone to falling due to stronger wind forces, he said. But many trees didn’t fall over – they snapped in half at the trunk, Jesseph said.

Several weeks after storms hit, local arborists continue cleaning up toppled trees for homeowners across the Inland Northwest.

Homeowners who had a tree blown over in their yard can pay as much as $1,000 for removal, said Lewis Harm, a licensed arborist with A1 Stump Removal and Tree Service. Unless the tree fell onto a home or garage, insurance companies are unlikely to cover any costs, he said. And many commercial arborists are falling behind with their work.

“We’re still playing catch-up right now,” Harm said.

John Schneider, owner of Frontier Tree Service, said his company was booked into October soon after the July 23 windstorm hit. He’s giving top priority to people the company has done business with in the past and those whose homes are damaged, he said.

Though it might seem valuable, most of the wood that commercial arborists recover from homes is not going to lumber mills, said John Jesseph, an arborist with Northwest Plant Health Care. Loading a truck, cutting and preparing the wood for a lumber mill costs hundreds of dollars, and two or three trees in a yard usually won’t fill a truck, he said.

Instead, most of the windfall wood is used in pulp plants or biomass generators, which burn wood waste to produce steam that generates electricity.

Cannon Hill Industry Inc., a wood recycling company in northeast Spokane, has seen the highest volume of wood come in since the company opened over five years ago, said yard manager Wayne Mott.

The city has almost completed its portion of storm cleanup, said urban forester Angel Spell. For trees that collapsed on public land, some of the marketable wood will be sold to local lumber mills. Small debris is being recycled into mulch for parks, and other wood large enough for firewood is donated to a SNAP program that donates to local residents in need of fuel.

The city will plant two trees for every one that fell on public land, said city arborist Jeff Perry. Those will be added to the city’s urban tree planting campaign, which aims to plant 10,000 trees. Perry said the city lost 40 to 50 trees on public land.

Perry said the newly planted trees will take 80 years to approach the size of the ones lost in the storm.

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