The May 21 windstorm that ripped through Ontario left thousands across the province without power. Peterborough was one of the hardest-hit cities with trees collapsing on people’s houses, cottages, power lines, and blocking roads. The overwhelming number of fallen trees has left local arborists scrambling to keep up with requests.
“We’ve had over 300 calls since Saturday afternoon,” says Katherine Tillaart, manager of Van Till Tree Care. “We don’t even have a full picture of how much more we’re going to have because the calls have not stopped. I thought within a few days, we would have at least heard from all of the most urgent calls such as trees on houses, but they’re still coming in.”
Peterborough Mayor Diane Therrien declared a local state of emergency on May 24, and provided the city with extra funding to tackle the backlog of damages on public property, such as trees blocking streets and sidewalks, and downed power lines. But rather than city crews, residential and cottage owners have to rely on private tree removal services to clear any fallen trees from their properties.
Most arborists in the area are prioritizing emergency situations, such as trees that have fallen on someone’s home or on wires, leaving non-emergency situations, such as clean up, for a later date. According to Mike Crough, president of Treescape Certified Arborists, it’ll be about a month before his company’s able to get to non-emergency calls.
The long waitlist is due, in part, to the surge in demand, but also the tricky and time-consuming nature of some of the jobs. “It all depends on the tree,” Crough says. Bigger trees in more precarious situations, such as resting on someone’s roof or leaning against a wire, will take longer to remove. “Some jobs we have might take a half an hour or some jobs we have might take the full day and require a whole bunch of different equipment.”
For emergencies such as a fallen tree on a wire, Crough says you should make sure the tree removal service you’ve hired is trained and licensed to work around primary hydro and that it’s using dielectric equipment.
If you’re not in an emergency situation and feel it’s safe to dispose of a fallen tree yourself, Crough says City of Peterborough residents can cut up the tree and leave the wood out by their driveway to be picked up by a disaster relief truck. He recommends cutting the wood into smaller pieces so that the truck’s grapple can grab the wood and place it in the back of the truck.
If you’re in a rural area surrounding Peterborough, Crough recommends leaving the wood in longer pieces—just long enough that you can still carry it. Line the pieces of wood up along the roadside with the butts facing downstream of traffic. This makes it easier for a truck with a chipper to pull up and feed each piece individually into the chipper.
If you’re not comfortable removing the tree yourself and want to use a professional service, Tillaart suggests putting your name on several tree removal services’ lists. Just remember to cancel with the other companies once you’ve been serviced, she says.
Alternatively, if you’re dealing with an uprooted tree that’s damaged your lawn, you could try contacting a landscaping or excavating company. “They won’t be quite as bombarded as the tree companies right now,” Tillaart says. “And those stumps need to be dug up with a big excavator and taken away.”
If you do decide to hire a tree removal service, Tillaart asks for patience. “This has been really hard to work through for everybody in the industry. And we know people are dealing with it, living with a tree on their house and without power and not knowing when someone’s coming to help. People have been, for the most part, so incredibly patient,” she says. “It’s nice to see when it’s such an awful time for so many people.”
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