published Friday, May 6th, 2011

Chattanooga lost thousands of trees in storm

Last week's severe storms pummeled the St. Elmo area of Chattanooga, leaving buildings damaged and trees down. City workers examine the blockade of downed trees on Ochs Highway in St. Elmo before proceeding to clear the road.
Staff Photo by Tracey Trumbull/Chattanooga Times Free Press
Last week's severe storms pummeled the St. Elmo area of Chattanooga, leaving buildings damaged and trees down. City workers examine the blockade of downed trees on Ochs Highway in St. Elmo before proceeding to clear the road. Staff Photo by Tracey Trumbull/Chattanooga Times Free Press

WHAT TO DO


• Call 311 to get on the city’s list for tree pickup, but be prepared to wait a week or two.

• Separate building materials and lumber from trees and tree limbs for curbside collection.

• Limbs must be cut shorter than 8 feet long for collection equipment to handle the debris.

• Residents and contractors also can dispose of wood waste at the Wood Recycling Center, 3925 N. Hawthorne St., and at a temporary wood disposal site at 3800 Cummings Highway from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

There are many large oak trees on Alabama Avenue in St. Elmo, but none matched the giant pin oak that once stood proudly in Selena Seymour and Ross Singer’s front yard.

The tree, about 5 feet in diameter at its base and about 100 feet tall, spread a majestic canopy over the yard and across the street.

But wild winds uprooted the oak in last week’s storms and sent it thundering to the ground. Now it’s a jungle gym for their 4-year-old son, Isaac. The impact shattered the sidewalk and thrust some branches more than a yard into the earth.

“We’ve had so many neighbors come by who are sad about it, saying it was their favorite tree in the neighborhood,” said Seymour.

But the St. Elmo oak is only one of thousands of Chattanooga trees toppled in the April 27 storms, city officials say.

“I’m pretty sure it’s the most trees we’ve ever lost in a single day. If not, it’s very close,” city Forester Gene Hyde said. Most were oaks and pines, he said.

The forest’s worth of leveled trees has forced the city to cobble together tree-removal crews. Lee Norris, deputy administrator of the public works department, said at least 20 public works crews have been sent out to help remove storm debris, including trees.

Most of the downed trees will be chopped into mulch.

“We’ve been grinding 12 hours a day since mid-day on Tuesday,” said Norris.

Hyde is worried the devastation will spawn unfounded anxiety about trees that still are standing but may be toppled in the next round of high winds. He recommends that worried homeowners call a certified arborist to check their trees.

In St. Elmo, city workers and church volunteers have helped to slowly dismember Singer and Seymour’s oak, but the couple predicts that removing it will be a prolonged process because the trunk is so big. “We’re not sure what to do with it. Chain saws aren’t enough to take it apart,” said Singer.

Once they get their oak removed, they will plant another.

“Hopefully in 200 years someone else will be on this porch and will say, ‘What would we do without this tree?’” said Seymour.

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