As employees worked to remove a fallen tree from backyard play equipment at a Devola home Tuesday, Randy's Tree Service owner Randy Schau estimated they would be doing jobs related to June 29's storm for the rest of July.
"What we've been doing is getting the worst, then going back and cleaning up people," he said.
The most frustrating aspect of the storm's aftermath - the power outages that have lasted longer than a week for some - had mostly been addressed in Washington County by Tuesday, with about 30 to 35 outages remaining for Washington Electric Cooperative customers. More than 500 residents in Wood County also remained without power Tuesday. But cleaning up the trees toppled by the derecho, an extreme straight-line wind that hammered the area, will take even longer.
EVAN BEVINS The Marietta Times
Larry Luke, with Randy’s Tree Service, watches as a limb he cut from a tree behind a residence in Devola falls to the ground Tuesday.
Those falling trees not only damaged houses, but were also a major factor in the widespread outages.
Power companies and entities like the Marietta Tree Commission work to prevent trees from interfering with power lines in the first place, but the force of the storm's wind and the wide area it covered caused a number of problems, said Jeff Rennie, AEP Ohio spokesman.
"A storm like the one we just had is an extraordinary event, and you just can't plan for it," he said.
defects in trees
What to look for
Dead wood - Dead trees and branches are unpredictable and can break and fall at any time. Dead wood is often dry and brittle and cannot bend in the wind like a living tree or branch. Dead branches and tree tops that are already broken off ("hangers" or "widow makers") are especially dangerous.
Cracks - A crack is a deep split through the bark, extending into the wood of the tree. Cracks are extremely dangerous because they indicate that the tree is already failing.
Weak branch unions - Weak branch unions are places where branches are not strongly attached to the tree. A weak union occurs when two or more
similarly-sized, usually upright branches grow so closely together that bark grows between the branches, inside the union. This ingrown bark does not have the structural strength of wood, and the union is much weaker than one that does not have included bark. Weak branch unions also form after a tree or branch is tipped or topped.
Decay - Decaying trees can be prone to failure, but the presence of decay, by itself, does not indicate that the tree is hazardous. Advanced decay, i.e., wood that is soft, punky or crumbly or a cavity where the wood is missing can create a serious hazard. Evidence of fungal activity including mushrooms, conks and brackets growing on root flares, stems or branches are indicators of advanced decay. Evaluating the safety of a decaying tree is usually best left to trained arborists.
Cankers - A canker is a localized area on the stem or branch of a tree, where the bark is sunken or missing. Cankers are caused by wounding or disease. The presence of a canker increases the chance of the stem breaking near the canker. A tree with a canker that encompasses more than half of the tree's circumference may be hazardous even if exposed wood appears sound.
Root problems - Trees with root problems may blow over in wind storms. They may even fall without warning in summer when burdened with the weight of the tree's leaves. There are many kinds of root problems to consider, e.g., severing or paving-over roots; raising or lowering the soil grade near the tree; parking or driving vehicles over the roots; or extensive root decay. Soil mounding, twig dieback, dead wood in the crown, and off-color or smaller-than-normal leaves are symptoms often associated with root problems.
Poor tree architecture - Poor architecture is a growth pattern that indicates weakness or structural imbalance. Trees with strange shapes are interesting to look at, but may be structurally defective. Poor architecture often arises after many years of damage from storms, unusual growing conditions, improper pruning, topping, and other damage. A leaning tree may be a hazard. Because not all leaning trees are dangerous, any leaning tree of concern should be examined by a professional arborist.
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Rennie said many of the trees that affected service in the recent storm were located outside of the company's right of way and therefore outside the purview of its tree-trimming program.
"We have a right to trim trees that encroach on our right of way, but the ones outside of our right of way, we can't touch," he said.
However, if the company identifies a potential problem tree, it will contact the property owner to see if they will allow AEP to trim it back or take it down. Individuals who have trees on their property they think could interfere with electrical lines are asked to call the company's customer service line at 800-277-2177.
Some residents recently expressed concerns to The Marietta Times that the Washington Electric Cooperative should have done more to address potential problem trees in the Archers Fork Road area.
Jennifer Greene, director of marketing and member services for the co-op, said about $1 million was spent last year on right-of-way trimming, cutting and spraying. The co-op does work among its 11 substations and delivery points on a seven-year rotation, she said.
"Considering this was the worst storm for Washington Electric in recent history - even worse than the 1998 flood in terms of damage - we do feel that we were on top of things and were as prepared as we possibly could have been for what's being described as an inland hurricane," Greene said. "We did learn some things that we may do differently in the future, and will be discussing those things and making the appropriate updates to our emergency restoration plan.
"Service reliability is of utmost importance at the cooperative, and ultimately it comes down to our budget and what is financially feasible given the cost of power, labor and rates," she said.
The co-op also reaches out to property owners with trees that could potentially affect their lines, and also try to educate members about not planting trees that grow higher than 20 feet beneath power lines, Greene said.
The Marietta Tree Commission does its best to keep up with potential problem trees, said Chairwoman Julia Paugstat, but the risk isn't always obvious from the outside. Such was the case with the massive tree that fell onto a house at 112 Montgomery Street.
"I don't know how I would have known that that would happen," Paugstat said.
Fellow tree commission member Marilyn Ortt, a retired field botanist for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, said a tree doesn't have to have anything wrong with it to be laid low by a storm.
"No matter how healthy a tree is, if the right wind hits it, from the right direction, right velocity, it's going to come down," she said.
However, the recent dry weather the area has experienced could make a tree's wood more brittle, reducing its flexibility and increasing the likelihood of it falling, Ortt said.
Although there were widespread outages around the region, Ortt said the work of AEP and the city's tree-trimming crew protected Marietta from even more problems.
"Without the kind of preventive pruning that the city does, it could have been much worse," she said.
Paugstat said she and city streets supervisor Todd Stockel were out Tuesday inspecting trees damaged by the storm, some of them so severely they will have to be removed. If residents have concerns about a tree on city property, they can notify the mayor's office by calling 373-1387.
Of course, the storm didn't just knock trees onto power lines. On Tuesday, Devola resident Kevin Hartline, 42, was meeting with an insurance company representative and contractors about the damage a cherry tree did when it fell onto the roof of his home.
Multiple trees also fell in the backyard, including one that Hartline's 12-year-old daughter, Emily, will particularly miss.
"It's just always been there," said Emily, 12. "It gave us great shade."
The Hartlines were not home when the tree fell, and friends cut parts of it away and covered the open portion of their roof with a tarp.
Although the backyard looks "like a war zone," Kevin Hartline said he's trying to look on the bright side.
"Nobody was hurt," he said. "Just wood and shingles, so we can replace that."
People have been bringing tree debris to Greenleaf Landscapes' composting site on Ohio 821 at a rate of about 50 truckloads a day, said general manager Dave Fleming - half dump trucks, half pickups or trailers.
Marietta residents can deposit branches of two inches in diameter or less there for free. People from outside the city can do so at a rate based on how much they bring. Either way, people wanting to take items to the composting site must stop at Greenleaf's retail store on Muskingum Drive to pick up a slip first.
Marietta Mayor Joe Matthews said city crews will still pick up branches from trees in the city right of way if residents call his office to let them know. Streets in the city have been clear since Monday, but there is plenty of cleanup for city workers to do on municipal property, he said.
"They're just integrating that in with their daily (work) now," Matthews said.