Oct. 2, 2020
Urban Forest Teams Survey Damaged Trees in City and County Parks
Urban Forest Strike Teams are assessing Hurricane Sally tree damage in public parks throughout the City of Pensacola and Escambia County this week to help with recovery efforts related to tree removal and mitigation.
The strike teams, comprised of arborists from the Florida Forest Service, Georgia Forest Service, Cooperative Forestry Assistance and Escambia County, are collecting tree damage data using FEMA's Public Assistance Policy and Program Guide. The data will be shared with county and city officials to assist with FEMA reimbursement for removal or mitigation of the damaged trees.
“One of the things that I try to tell folks about why you need a strike team to come in is once the streets are open, the power’s back on, people start getting back to normal again, they think it’s over – but they forget to look up," Florida Forest Service Urban Forest Strike Team Leader Stephen Lloyd said. "And you’ll see hangers and things overhead that are still an ongoing risk to public safety. So that’s the reason we come in is to identify those risks and mitigate them.”
When surveying damaged trees, the forest strike teams will conduct a total visual assessment of every tree and will also note the tree species, trunk diameter, if the tree has broken or snapped branches, root length if the tree was knocked down, root damage, and whether or not the tree needs to removed.
“You’re going to see a lot of salt spray damage, and the thing is, a live oak may look terrible right now, but they cope with storms like this by dropping their leaves, lowering their wind resistance, and that’ll all come back," Lloyd said. "You’re going to see a lot of trees dropping their limbs, shedding them, and you think they might be dead, but give them a while – look at them next spring and see if they come back.”
If tree is assessed and needs to be removed, crews will spray an orange spray paint slash at chest height and also at stump level. If the tree only needs to be pruned, crews will spray a white dot on the tree.
Crews also provide information about potential hazards and tree removal needs that are not storm-related.
"Everybody that’s doing these assessments are arborists, so we’re looking at total tree condition and risk assessment," Assistant Strike Team Leader Will Liner said. "Sometimes debris contractors will come through and they’ll see something really obvious, but they might miss a small crack that an arborist would see and go, ‘That’s a major structural issue for the tree.’ So we can make a suggestion that it might not qualify for FEMA assistance, but this tree is really hazardous and needs to be removed."
The crews have surveyed a total of 34 county parks and approximately 100 city parks since Monday, Sept. 28, with 1,043 tree hazards identified. Crews will continue their assessments through Saturday, Oct. 3.