Trees Damaged by October Snowskip to main navigation skip to secondary navigation
Combo of leaves, wet snow, ice is too much for many trees
In two decades in the tree-trimming business, Ken Almstead has never seen a storm that generated so many calls for help.
"We had 378 calls just in our New Rochelle office, and there had to be more than a thousand overall," said Almstead, an arborist for 23 years and CEO of Almstead Tree and Shrub Care Co.
"I've never seen this many branch failures in this many trees," he said. "On some properties I've walked, almost every tree was affected."
Orangetown Highway Superintendent Jim Dean, who's been working in that department since 1957, said the weekend storm brought record amounts of debris.
"It's the worst October storm I've ever seen," Dean said. "Every property we're looking at has tree limbs broken. After Irene we picked up 4,000 cubic yards of debris and in the March 2010 storm we had 15,000. I think this one is going to have even more."
The unnatural mix of wet, sticky snow before the leaves dropped turned the colorful canopies into snow-catchers that weighed too much for branches to hold. When they came down, so did any electric wires in the way.
Nina Bassuk, professor of urban horticulture at Cornell University, called the early snowstorm "very unusual" and a recipe for real damage.
"If the leaf isn't ready to break off, it acts just like a sail," Bassuk said. "The rain we've had kept the leaves on longer. The weight on the leaves really strains the limbs."
She said the downstate area has a lot of maple and oak trees, with big, flat leaves that tend to hold more.
Almstead said the softer woods like pear and dogwood trees also didn't have a fighting chance.
"The laws of physics got ugly," said Chris Olert, a spokesman for Consolidated Edison, which still had 52,000 customers without power 48 hours after the snows hit. "Our goal is to get everybody back late Wednesday."
Bill Gorton, the state Department of Transportation's acting regional director for the Lower Hudson Valley, said the access issue has slowed cleanup efforts. He said the list of roads with blockages was long.