Residents trying to clean up fallen trees and branches should take care to avoid several of the following dangers:

• LADDERS: A limb can fall unexpectedly at any time. If that limb hits a ladder, the climber is going down with it.

• POWER LINES: As power gradually comes back, downed lines that haven’t been live the last several days can become dangerous. Stay at least 10 feet away.

• HANGING LIMBS: Days after the storm, limbs that have suffered stress and cracks can still come down. If you’re working under them, wear a helmet.


John and Eileen Franke have been working since Saturday to clean up their fallen trees.

“Every muscle and every bone hurts,” Eileen Franke said.

The Town of Tonawanda residents had significant damage to two swamp oaks that were several hundred years old, as well as a 33-year-old maple tree planted on their son’s first birthday.

As streets are cleared and flooding recedes, residents of the areas hit hardest by Thursday night’s lake effect snow storm are left with a problem which will last for much longer. The once healthy trees that lined their streets and lawns have been left badly battered.

“We started removal of debris today,” said Brad Rowles, superintendent of the Town of Tonawanda’s highway department. “It’s going to be a massive job.”

Rowles estimates the town maintains about 30,000 trees, while there are about 60,000 private trees in that area.

But while nearly every tree in the Tonawandas were damaged in some way, experts and officials alike are urging caution in cleaning up the mess, citing dangers posed by power lines, hanging branches and the measures that might be taken by non-experts.

“This stuff is so dangerous,” said Mike Dugan, owner of West Seneca-based Specialized Tree Service. “If you’re not sure what you’re doing, then don’t do it.”

The most severe hazard Dugan has seen on the job is people trying to cut down trees while on a ladder, he said.

“If you see someone making a cut from a ladder, pull over and tell them to stop, or get ready to call 911,” he said. “Just don’t do it.”

Power lines pose a significant problem, he said. If a line is on the ground, whether it looks disconnected or live, stay 10 feet away.

Wires that weren’t live several days ago could be now, Rowles said.

“More and more power is being turned on,” he said. “We’re telling our employees to stay away from any wiring on the ground.”

Falling limbs are still an issue after storms as destructive as the one past.

“Have a helmet if you’re underneath a tree,” Dugan said. “There’s a lot of tension on these limbs. There’s split limbs.”

Just because a tree was ransacked in the storm doesn’t mean it can’t be salvaged. Residents should give even badly injured trees every chance to survive, but only if they’re willing to spend the time and money, Dugan said.

“If a veteran comes home with two legs and a missing arm, I always say, ‘give him a chance,’ right?” he said.

But recovery doesn’t happen overnight.

“This is a 10-year process more than anything,” he said.

The process may involve taking action that seems counter-productive, Dugan said. For instance, trees that have lost larger limbs must undergo a survival of the fittest of sorts with its smaller limbs, called suckers, which will eventually restore the tree’s original shape.

“Normally, those suckers are considered a weak limb,” he said. “But you have to let them grow and then chose certain limbs that have a chance.”

It’s after promising sucker limbs are chosen to grow that the tree will regain it’s original shape.

“It will look ugly (at first),” Dugan said. “But you have to let it grow.”

Rowles asked residents to try and keep branches off of curbs and roads as municipal workers try to clean up the mess.

“We got the roads open curb to curb,” he said. “Now everything is focused on removal.”

Trees are being taken to an old landfill and several other sites around the town, Rowles said. They will be turned into wood chips to use at the landfill.

Contact Dan Minerat 693-1000, Ext. 115.

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