‘Heartbroken to lose these trees’: Saint John continues Hurricane Dorian cleanup

Saint John continues Hurricane Dorian cleanup
WATCH: Things are starting to feel back to normal in Saint John following Hurricane Dorian’s arrival, but as Silas Brown reports, there’s a feeling of sadness in the area for the many lost trees.

With Hurricane Dorian firmly in the rearview mirror, clean up is well underway in Saint John and many are expressing relief at escaping injury and major damage.

Laurie Gardener’s house on the lower west side is short a porch after a massive branch snapped off the 200-year-old tree outside her home.

“It’s looks a lot worse that it really is and I’m thankful it didn’t come down into our house. The porch and the steps are easy to fix,” she said.

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With a little help from their neighbours, Gardener and her husband were able to clear the branch from the road and will now be able to stockpile the wood for their furnace.

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Sitting beside the logs are large piles of branches, leaves, and sawdust. That’s become familiar sight, as Saint John moves from response to clean-up. All roads have been cleared of debris and localized flooding has receded.

Saint John Energy, as well as the provincial utility NB Power, both expect to have power restored to all customers by the end of the day, which is welcome news to some further up the Fundy Coast that have been in the dark for three days.

“It came pretty hard. It took the power out I’d say around 5:45 and it’s been out now since and this is day three. I’ve already gone through $60 in gas in two generators,” said Richard Wilson outside his house in Bains Corner, N.B.

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Hurricane Dorian: Maritimes clean up after storm’s powerful punch
Hurricane Dorian: Maritimes clean up after storm’s powerful punch

NB Power crews could be seen spread out along the southern portion of Highway 111 cutting trees from powerlines where, as of Monday morning, over 1,300 customers remained without power.

In Saint John, it’s expected cleanup could take around a week as crews begin to tackle the many downed trees in public squares around the city, particularly King’s Square.

“Now that we’ve got the main roads all clear and traffic is good—there’s a lot of brush piled on the road but it’s on the sides, off to the sides of the roads—we can try and concentrate on this because it seems to be drawing a lot of people so we want to make it safe here before anything happens,” said city arborist Chris Gaudet.

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The feeling of relief that the city escaped without anyone getting hurt has been matched by a sadness for the many old trees the city has lost. Mayor Don Darling says the outpouring of grief has inspired the city to take a look at how the wood can be saved and repurposed into appropriate monuments.

“We’re standing in a park that is the centre of our city … these trees are likely 200 years old. I was almost brought to tears when I came up yesterday. I’m heartbroken to lose these trees,” he said.

“That’s why I think the community has spoken very loudly that they would like to see us do something creative, they would like to see these trees enjoyed in some other fashion.”

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City staff are attempting to take the trees down in large pieces in order to ensure flexibility with what can be done with the wood. Darling said they’ve already been receiving some ideas from artisans and one would be to create boards that would line the wall of council chamber at city hall.

In the meantime, officials are warning people to stay away from the downed trees, particularly when workers are present with equipment.