Stop Hooray for the chop

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Power is still out most places around midtown. We didn't lose power until 7:30 this morning. Coming home from an event last night, the traffic lights were already out at 36th & Peoria and 21st & Utica.

Happily, the lines immediately leading to our house are all intact, thanks to Asplundh's butchery. A line supplying a pole light came down, however.

At times I have longed for a tree to shade our driveway, like the one our neighbors have had. Not anymore.

I can't help but notice: The fact that a branch doesn't overhang a line doesn't mean that it can't fall on a line and bring it down.

We've probably lost all three of our Bradford pear trees, plus a couple of big oaks. The trees that held on to their leaves were harmed the most, because there was more surface area for the ice to cover, and therefore more weight on the limbs. The trees that dropped their leaves did just fine.

There's probably a spiritual lesson in there somewhere. If you're a pastor, feel free to adapt it as a sermon illustration.

At about 4 p.m. I traveled down 41st Street between Yale and Garnett. Promenade was open, as was Reasor's, the other shops at Southroads, and nearly all of that commercial district. The McDonald's was closed, but seemed to have power. Traffic lights were out at Sheridan and Mingo, but the rest were operating. Home Depot was open and packed. The gas station at 41st & Memorial was doing a brisk business. It appeared that everything around 41st & Garnett was up and running.

Cycledog has photos of the storm's impact in Owasso.

MORE: Charles G. Hill has a storm report from Oklahoma City and pictures with links to more.

Bowden McElroy made it to work in Tulsa, but felt guilty about leaving his family home without power. And wouldn't you know it?

My 8:00 a.m. client showed up. Every one but my 5:00 p.m. client has canceled. Isn't that the way it always goes, the first and last appointments showing up and everyone else canceling?

STILL MORE: Don Danz says hooray for the chop:

Oh, and I'd just like to quickly thank those individuals with large trees who bitch and moan, and do everything in their power to thwart the power companies from trimming back their trees which have grown too close to power lines...thank you...from everyone in Tulsa and across the state...thank you for caring so much about your precious trees. We can all certainly agree that your precious aesthetic sensibilities are far more important than a reliable power grid.

To be fair, an ice storm like this is a once-in-a-generation occurrence. I hope someone studies the effects of the PSO's trimming practices before and after protests over excessive trimming. Was more moderate pruning as effective as the earlier clear-cutting?

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12 Comments

Don said:

"To be fair"...I don't over estimate the role of people who thwarted the power companies trimming estimates, they may have only played a small role in our current troubles. But, if your tree fell on my community power line, you've got some explaining to do. Maybe I'm just not "getting it" but saying, "Well, my trees only knocks out power to other people's homes ever 20 to 25 years," doesn't seem like much of an excuse to me.

If the City of Tulsa's flood control efforts resulted in your home flooding "only" every 20 to 25 years...would anyone accept that? Of course not. But switch it around, and have the individual instead of the city affect everyone else and, all of a sudden, the excuse is acceptable. I don't know. Much like many other things in life, with trees comes responsibility. Part of that responsibility is that if there is an ice storm, your trees shouldn't knock out power to those around you.

Maybe, however, as a collective population we say the aesthetics out weights the damage and every 20-25 years is good enough. I'm less of a fan of aesthetics and more interested in practicality. I say trim the trees/clear the trees. Or, spend the extra buck and do it right in the first place...bury the lines!

CGHill Author Profile Page said:

OG&E sent somebody other than Asplundh to look at our neighborhood lines last month; they did a better-than-acceptable job. (In fact, it was two days before I'd noticed that they'd been there at all, which speaks well of their cleanup efforts. It was these folks, out of Houston.) No power outages on my street, despite major tree issues.

s said:

What is frustrating is PSO does not keep up like it used to with trimming the trees way back or notifying people that have the monster trees to trim them so they don't get in the wires. My parents do not have any trees but their neighbors refuse to trim those huge oak and pecan trees and a huge oak tree fell on my parents car. I called PSO which their call centers need massive overhaul. It's as though they pick the least caring people to answer your call once you have waited a very long time. When most call centers have sudden needs they pull in the people to take all those extra hundreds of calls. This happens with PSO every time with them getting away with poor customer service when reporting outages/wires down, etc.

The people that own the tree apparently do not have to use their own insurance company to pay for the damage to my parents car. The tree hit my parents roof and damaged their car too.

Mother in Ohio said:

Shame on those who complain about the trimming of their trees by Asplundh. After a storm they are not trimming to make a tree "pretty" but to get power restored ASAP and make sure branches are not going to fall and kill someone, damage houses or automoblies, etc. As the mother of someone that was just sent to Tusla, from Ohio, I want you to think about those people coming to your state to help you. They have been sent during your time of need and are now away from their families for possible 2-6 weeks (during CHRISTMAS). My son went gladly so he could help you. He will probably be faced with people yelling at him for cutting their trees but as in the past he takes it in stride and does his job. You should think before you yell at a tree trimmer because you don't know where they are from or how long they drove to come help you (my son was in an Asplundh truck for over 24 hours, and that was after he had already worked a 10 hr day).

Update - My son just called. He slept in the back of the chipper truck last night on a bed of chipped bark. No places to stay for those 150+ crews from all over the US that came to help.

Thank you to the Tusla Fairgrounds because it appears tonight they are going to open one of the bldgs at the fairgrounds for the crews to sleep.

Loving mother in Ohio

"once in a generation"? In OKC a generation must be 2 years. When we lived in Tulsa, a generation was 6 days because we had a SUMMER where, during a 90 day summer, we didn't have power for over 30 of those.

Trees have been a problem in Tulsa for over 25 years.

manasclerk Author Profile Page said:

CycleDog's photos are amazing and frightening. I wonder if non-native species fair worse -- not sure what a tree native to those regions would be, really. I recall learning that many of the trees we thought were native to San Antonio were actually migrants.

You'd think that at least now you would not have this problem in the future, since all the weak trees are gone. But folks will still want instant trees in that low rain area. I wonder if that also plays a part -- but that was a lot of ice, from CycleDog's photos.

My father-in-law in south Tulsa said that he lost all his trees and bushes. Every single one. He now has grass. My mother-in-law in OKC lost power and is staying with relatives out towards Yukon. I wonder how things will look when we're down there later this month.

Burying the lines costs a lot of money where burying means cutting into limestone after four inches of topsoil. And people like trees, and trees actually do things that make economic sense besides just look pretty. A prof at Trinity in SATX showed that a well placed tree down there could substantially reduce both heating and cooling costs. It wasn't just shade: had to do with drawing heat into the roots somehow. Never did understand the paper.

His pics reminded me of being in Raleigh in late Sept. 1996, after Fran took out, well, a lot.

Hope y'all are warm.

s said:

The neighbor's tree hit my parents meter box completely off so now I have to find an electrician which probably will be a long wait just because the neighbor never kept up with the trimming of their huge oak tree. My parents have repeatedly asked them when big limbs have fallen in their driveway or backyard and barely missed their house to please trim the tree but instead they are doing home remodelling projects with their money instead.

My mother thought she saw some sparks on one of the PSO electric lines and she called the fire dept. to check it out and the neighbor was not very happy she reported it. More documentation to show they are at fault.

They are both lawyers and represent insurance companies if you can believe how irresponsible they have been about their own tree because the ethics of failing to prevent a foreseeable accident they failed as lawyers themselves.

Blackjack oaks ought to be native, since we're near the Cross Timbers, a wide swath of ancient oak forest between Tulsa and Oklahoma City. Bois d'Arc (Osage Orange) is as well, I think.

River birches are notorious for being fast growers and for being easily damaged by storms. The structure of a Bradford pear tree seems to work against it -- whole sections will split off when damaged, plus they don't tend to drop their leaves.

Mother in Ohio, I don't think anyone will be yelling at your son this week, except to shout a word of thanks. We're very happy to have all the extra help. I'm sorry to hear about the lodging problem. Hotels have been packed with locals trying to escape the cold. I thought I heard that they had the Expo Building open for housing on Tuesday night, as well. At dinner Tuesday night, we saw a lot of trucks in the lot that had just arrived from Louisiana and Alabama, and there was a convoy of cherry pickers headed north to the Fairgrounds.

The complaints in the past have been about PSO's tree maintenance program, which early on made some pretty ugly modifications to trees near power lines. There were some compromises which improved the communication with homeowners and how trees were cut back. Even without nearby trees, the amount of ice we had was enough to weigh lines down and cause them to break or fall. We lost a power line between the main line and a corner street light -- not a tree nearby. At the Highland Park shopping center (41st and Hudson) on Monday, a power line had sagged to within six feet of the pavement.

Mother in Ohio said:

This is an update to my earlier message. I just spoke to my son and he said he has had some VERY nice people in Tulsa come out to say thank you for the work they are doing (trimming trees). People have taken them hot coffee and someone even made them hamburgers. My son will be in Tulsa for at least 2 weeks - yes on Christmas (a long way from home in Ohio).

THANK YOU to all of you that appreciate the hard work of everyone that has come to your town/state to help. And please remember that a thank you, hello and even a wave to these workers may make their day better.

Loving mother

michelle Author Profile Page said:

Just to clarify, the "Stop the Chop" campaign did not involve PSO/AEP. In fact, it was a movement to stop the city from chopping down trees in Woodward park, which had a number of trees with problems, and instead of trimming, the city wanted to chop them down as that was cheaper. From the looks of Woodward Park, mother nature may have done the "chopping" herself.

In my neighborhood, PSO had recently completed substantial trimming, but I don't think it made any difference. And I don't think the people who tried to rein in the tree chopping made much difference. Unless you want to outlaw trees all together, there isn't much you can do when a whole tree, or at least a 15' branch topples over.

Good points all, Michelle. I would have done better not to use that title and confuse the issue.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on December 10, 2007 5:10 PM.

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