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Leaves, wet snow a ‘perfect storm’ to damage trees: arborist

An early winter storm with heavy wet snow caused fallen trees, many on cars, and power lines in Winnipeg early Friday morning, October 11, 2019. Snow clearing crews were forced to hit the streets to clean up the damage.
An early winter storm with heavy wet snow caused fallen trees, many on cars, and power lines in Winnipeg early Friday morning, October 11, 2019. Snow clearing crews were forced to hit the streets to clean up the damage. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

It’s been a busy day for a lot of Winnipeggers dealing with the storm, including arborist Chris Olson, owner of TNT Tree Services.

Olson told 680 CJOB he’s received a week’s worth of calls just Friday morning, due to the unprecedented number of fallen trees.

“You’ve seen the pictures. I was driving around all day and I haven’t seen so many trees damaged, I think, ever in my life,” he said.

“It’s kind of like the perfect storm because the leaves trap the wet snow which overloads the trees and causes the limbs to break.

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“It’s a lot of weight that they’re not used to having to carry, and that’s what causing them to bend over like that, and obviously they break at a certain point when they’re not able to withstand it anymore.”

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The high winds, he said, aren’t helping either.

Downed branches were reported throughout the city, especially on side streets with older trees, blocking traffic on some major streets.

The City of Winnipeg said 311 services has received about 700 calls about downed trees and branches since Thursday night.

While larger trees are obviously out-of-reach for most homeowners to help, Olson said people can give smaller trees and shrubs a break by shaking off some of the snow.

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“If your tree is bent over and really touching the ground, get out there and bang the limbs and try to get some of that heavy snow off,” he said.

“If the snow stays on there a long time it will kinda deform the limbs, so if you’re able to – and if it’s not too high, obviously – that will improve their chances of making it through this.

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“If it warms up next week and everything melts, this should be a short-term stress for the trees and they should be able to bounce back.”

The downed trees caused havoc for Manitoba Hydro, which was trying to restore power to more than 37,000 customers across the province — including more than 26,000 in Winnipeg — by 10 a.m. Friday.

The utility warned not to remove downed trees or fallen branches from power lines.

“If you see a line on the ground, just assume it is still live. Stay away from it, keep others away from it and call 911 immediately,” said Hydro spokesperson, Scott Powell in a release.

“Also, notify our Contact Centre at 1-888-MBHYDRO or 204-360-5900 so we can get a crew there as quickly as possible to make the area safe. It may take some time to get through, but public safety is our first priority.”

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Tree cleared off Jubilee Avenue
Tree cleared off Jubilee Avenue