Helena works to remove tree debris after powerful wind storm

Cleanup continues after wind damage in Helena
Posted at 5:55 PM, Jan 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-15 16:10:40-05

HELENA — Cleanup continued Thursday in Helena after a powerful windstorm with hurricane strength gusts came through the area knocking down numerous trees.

The City of Helena received over 40 reports of tree damage on Wednesday. The City of Helena Urban Forestry says the tree damage was some of the largest loss they’ve seen.

“When my phone started ringing a lot of stuff happened all at once,” said Urban Forestry Supervisor Chris Daly. “I’ve had over 10 [city managed] whole tree failures which for one storm event is significant… I consider two to three to be a heavy loss for a one storm event.”

Given the number of recently damaged trees, Daly asks that the public use caution if they think a tree may have been damaged.

“Some obvious signs to look for would be heaving on the ground, broken branches obviously. Any sounds creaking, cracking, things like that,” said Daly. “I’d encourage everyone to not approach a damaged tree because the stresses involved on the wood can provide unpredictable hazards.”

Cleanup continues after wind damage in Helena

People can call 406-447-8426 or email to report any tree damage from boulevard or park trees.

The City will only haul away publicly-owned trees, trees on private property are the responsibility of the homeowner. Fallen trees should be taken to the transfer station and not put into dumpsters or trash cans.

If it’s a private tree that has been damaged, Daly says people should have a professional arborist assess the damage and see if the tree poses any additional risk.

Thanks to the city’s new second chipping unit, the majority of blocking damage has been removed although Daly says cleanup will likely continue for the next several days.

On Friday “Light a Life” spruce that fell at the Helena Civic Center will be sectioned and removed from the site.

Parks and Recreation say they’ve had numerous people contact them about wanting to do something with the tree.

Cleanup continues after wind damage in Helena

“We’ve had quite a few folks that are very interested in what’s going to happen to the tree now, what we’re going to do with the tree. This just happened yesterday so we’re just trying to assess what we will do with it.,” said Parks and Recreation Kristi Ponozzo.

Ponozzo said it’s a large tree which hopefully means a lot of options for multiple individuals to be able to do something with the timber.

Due to the “Light a Life” tree falling at the Civic Center, the other large spruce by the Fire Department Bay will need to be removed now that it has no protection from the wind.

“The second tree is not in as good of condition to begin with and when the wind profile changes unexpected forces and fell that tree,” said Daly.

Daly also noted that if it were to fall in the same way it would seriously cripple fire response.

The City is in initial discussions to replace the spruces with other spruce trees on the 100th anniversary of the Civic Center this spring.