After the storm came the cleanup. Dallas city staffers took to the streets this week to get trees and other debris removed from the roadway after a brief but brutal wind battered most of the city. Residents dealt with it on their properties. And private companies, both well-intentioned and not-so, went to work. It was a half hour of 70 mph winds, but it was enough to spark a nearly citywide response. And the City Council picked a rather inopportune time to vote on a longtime plan to limit the city’s bulk trash collection program.
The city’s Sanitation Services department hired 20 contract crews to help collect debris from neighborhoods, not unlike how the city deploys its own employees to corral bulk waste pickups. City spokeswoman Anastasia Reed said that City Hall is in contact with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to grind down the debris at temporary sites and expedite gathering all of it.
Reed said the city is looking to turn the waste into something that can be reused: mulch, compost, landfill ground material. Public works was in charge of clearing the public right-of-way. They pass the mess along to Sanitation to process. If the trees were down in a park, they’re also getting turned into mulch or compost.
It’s not clear how many trees we lost. But Parks Board President Bobby Abtahi says Dallas parks are down 641, with 255 of those at White Rock Lake alone. “We do go out and assess the damage,” he said. “We prioritize safety and clearing roads and trails first. We keep track of what we remove and we keep track of man hours.”
Abtahi says the city will get some help from TXU Energy. They called after the storm and asked whether the city could use some help. Abtahi told them about the trees. TXU then vowed a “significant donation of trees” to help replace what was lost in Dallas parks. The company has donated 300,000 trees to a variety of partners since starting its program in 2002.
“People talk about Dallas being a giving city, and it’s times like these we are all united in helping people out,” Abtahi said.
Still—it will be difficult to fully account for the loss of trees outside of the parks. Matt Grugisch, the director of operations and forestry for the Texas Trees Foundation, estimated the number to be in the thousands. The city hasn’t released any numbers on how many have been cleared, and that may be impossible to collect considering how many were on private properties. That raises another issue: the city didn’t have an urban forestry division until 2017. And even then, it only maintains trees on public property. It was largely up to Texas Trees to catalogue the canopy here.
“We need to have a strong urban forestry department with the city of Dallas so we can get a good estimate of how many trees were lost,” Grubisich said. “We really have no idea.”
He also said that trees toppling onto power lines were likely the chief cause for this week’s massive power outages. Proper urban forestry management would mean making sure they were never planted close enough to fall onto power lines in the first place. At its peak, 350,000 people were without power on Sunday afternoon. By Friday, that’s down to 265.
If you still have debris near your property, call 311.