published Friday, April 29th, 2011

Storm cleanup business booming

Storm-weary consumers flocked to stores Thursday to buy generators, chain saws, gas containers and repair equipment while tree-removal companies and utility crews were in high demand.

Dustin Blewett, owner of Blewett Tree Service, said there were so many calls of downed trees that he has had to prioritize which ones to answer first.

“It’s triage,” he said. “Right now we’re clearing trees off of houses where they can put a tarp on it so construction people can get in.”

At the Lowe’s on Highway 153, Lee Failla, of Dunlap, Tenn., said he had nine trees down in his yard, though none hit his house. He was searching for a chain saw, which he couldn’t find.

“It’s cleanup time,” he said.

Tim McGhee of Harrison, also at Lowe’s, said he had a lot of felled branches at his house.

“The people next to us have a tree on their house,” he said, adding he never had seen wave after wave of tornado-laden storms such as hit the area Wednesday. “This is about biblical proportions.”

Stephen Underwood, manager of The Home Depot in Hixson, said it had run out of generators and he couldn’t say when more would arrive.

But he said he had plenty of chain saws, including electrical ones if people had power.

“We’ve been extremely busy in that area. We’ve got a fresh shipment of tarps,” Underwood added, including a lot of contractor clean-up bags.

Joy Simpson of the Hixson Lowe’s said Thursday afternoon the store had run out of generators. She also was uncertain when more will come in.

“No one has more,” she said.

T.J. Peck, of Hixson, said he has a tree on the back of his house, though it didn’t go through the roof.

He said damage could have been much worse, noting he doesn’t live in Ringgold, Ga., or Trenton, Ga., where much of the storm damage was concentrated.

Jennifer Greathouse of the local Asplundh tree removal company said it’s working with EPB to help the distributor restore power to its customers.

Greathouse estimated Thursday morning it had 14 crews working locally with three to four people to each unit.

“We’ve got crews that have come from out of town,” she said, including one from Mountain City in upper East Tennessee. “We’re working around the clock.”

Blewett termed the storms the worst he ever had seen, much more severe than those at the end of February and in early March.

“This has definitely gone beyond that. We’ll be pulling trees off houses for a while. It will be longer than a week,” he said.

about Mike Pare...

Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...

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