Ottawa

Arborists face tall order to keep up with demand after windstorm

Arborists have been in high demand since the windstorm toppled hundreds of trees around the region, with many tree experts saying they will be booked solidly for months.

Some say the cleanup work will take a year and a half to finish

On Cordell Court in the Nepean area of Ottawa, a large quarry dump truck drops tree material at a makeshift forestry depot before the wood is loaded onto small dump trucks and hauled away. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Arborists across the region say they are working 12 hours on some days due to the high demand since the derecho windstorm smacked the Ottawa-Gatineau region more than 10 days ago.

Tree felling, pruning and brushing experts have jettisoned around the region to clean up the hundreds of downed trees hit by the strong winds on May 21.

One tree maintenance expert says the storm gave his company 18 months worth of work.

"The first night was tough. We worked until midnight in pitch black making sure some people had the trees free from their roofs," said Jared Carden.

Exhausted arborist Jared Carden, seen in the hard-hit Pine Glen neighbourhood, says he had been working 'non-stop' since the storm. (Stu Mills/CBC)

His face covered in dirt, sweat and sawdust, Carden said in the days immediately after the storm he and his crew from J.Daniels' Trees were refuelling their saws like race-car drivers — up to 15 times per day with the machines scarcely shut down between tanks.

Carden and his company have been chipping brush and cutting up what were once very tall trees in the badly hit Nepean neighbourhoods of Pineglen and Country Place.

"From everything I've seen, this neighbourhood is the worst hit in the city," said Carden.

The mature trees and their full spring canopies stood tall in the storm and caught the gale like sails of a schooner.

Since the giant trees need to be cut into many manageable pieces, the work has gone slowly. Sometimes when he takes a much-needed break, neighbours approach him asking if he can take on another job.

Jean Lacasse, right, chainsaws a downed hemlock into lengths that can be milled for lumber, hoping the owner might be able to recoup some of his losses. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Customers should reclaim wood from fallen trees, expert says

Nearby, Jason Gauthier and his crew from Crowe Tree Service wrap up a delicate job and another work day that will probably run 14 hours.

A massive honey locust tree, some of the heaviest, densest wood growing in North America, fell from an adjoining yard onto a neighbour's pool and a house.

A crane was hired to hoist out the one-tonne branches and while it does, the owner of the damaged home handed Gauthier a bottle of water.

"It's been quite overwhelming," said Gauthier. "Yes, it's good money, but we're not going to be making so much that we'll be buying a new truck."

He estimates arborists will earn an income from this storm until Christmas 2023.

In Chelsea, Que., Jean Lacasse of Perfectrees is taking care to bring down a giant hemlock in lengths that can be milled for lumber. The conifer plucked its roots from the soil and toppled on top of a garage..

He hoped the value of the famously weatherproof lumber might top $5,000, roughly the same as the cleanup bill.

"The market being what it is, it's a good plan for the customers, who are victims in this, to at least reclaim the wood,"  said Lacasse.

Leilak Anderson's work starts with some quick maintenance of his chain to ready for another busy day. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Across the road, arborist Leilak Anderson just arrived at a job that would appear urgent, but has had to wait 10 days.until he was available.

There are seven trees on the roof of one very unlucky home. 

"This looks pretty bad," Anderson said.

Even homeowners facing some of the worst damage have to wait until arborists are free to help them rebuild after the storm.

At a home in Chelsea, Que., Anderson begins to untangle seven trees from the roof of one unlucky home. (Stu Mills/CBC)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Stu Mills

CBC Ottawa reporter

You can reach Stu Mills by email at stu.mills@cbc.ca.

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