Saint John is still cleaning up after last December’s ice storm and it may take months to assess the full extent of the damage to the city’s trees.

For months, city arborists have been sorting out the most unsafe trees and eliminating any potential hazards.

Chris Gaudet, Saint John’s lead arborist, said work is still being done to clean up the thousands of broken limbs from trees and the work may not be over until the summer.

“We have to try and get it down before it falls and hurts someone. We have over the last few months made some headway on it. We're probably 60 per cent through all the damage that we had,” he said.

Damaged trees

Saint John workers are still cleaning up after December's massive ice storm. (CBC)

Some of the worst damage during the ice storm was to older growth trees. Those trees don't recover as quickly, while other trees just couldn't handle the weight of the ice.

“A lot of our damage came from green ash and pioneer elms, which grow fast and they grow thick. And they accumulated a lot of ice on them and when they break — they just exploded,” he said.

Marc Doucet, an urban forestry manager, said some trees fared better than they would have in part because the trees were already frozen when the storm hit.

“A lot of the trees were frozen up by then, so that is actually a positive thing,” Doucet said.

“Where they had frozen slowly and then they were encased in ice and on the other end, unthawed slowly. So it's that rapid thaw, I guess rapid freeze-thaw cycle that can provide some sort of cellular implosion-explosion in the trees that they don't recover from.

Doucet said it's still too early to assess how much damage was done to Saint John's urban forest.

He said city officials will have a better idea when the cleanup is complete, which won't be until at least the summer.

The province was hit by a major ice storm in late December. During the storm, roughly 82,000 homes and businesses were without electricity at some point, NB Power officials had said.

The provincial government said the severity of the ice storm was “unprecedented.”