Frank Knaapen knows first-hand waiting is the only thing one can do after a region’s trees lose limbs — and in some cases, life — in a storm.
The arborist based just west of Ottawa was working outside of the national capital when a massive ice storm hit southern Quebec and eastern Ontario, devastating trees with frozen pellets in the winter of 1998.
"It’ll take a good 10 years for (trees) to hide all the scars," said Knaapen, a professor in the forest technician program at Algonquin College in Pembroke, Ont., located about 150 kilometres west of Ottawa.
He said Tuesday the photos and videos he had seen of Winnipeg after the recent storm resembled the damage done in Ottawa 20 years ago.
"Things will look bare for a while… You just have to be patient," Knaapen said, adding city residents should expect to see a "fuller" and "healthier" tree canopy again by 2029.
An estimated 30,000 trees located on public property were affected by the snowstorm that dropped 34 centimetres of snow in Winnipeg during the Thanksgiving weekend.
A combination of trees that had yet to shed their leaves and wet snow that weighed the trees down resulted in widespread damage to shrubs, hydro infrastructure and private property.
On Tuesday, City of Winnipeg spokesman David Driedger said in a statement crews anticipate the cleanup effort will take months. Knaapen estimates the cleanup alone will take a couple of years, since arborists will have to remove damaged trees and assess ones that appear to be healthy at first glance.
The owner of Shurwood Forest tree service, Doug Panchuk, said Tuesday his phone had not stopped ringing for cleanup calls since Thursday around midnight.
"We’ve been out from sun-up to sundown since," Panchuk said. "We kind of expect to be for the foreseeable future."
Panchuk said his small team of tree-removal experts have noticed Siberian elms and ash trees have taken the brunt of the storm. Both species are prone to breakage compared to others and have been made weaker due to invasive pests, he said.
Both Panchuk and TNT Tree Service owner Chris Olson said they have never seen anything like the carnage of trees in Winnipeg as part of the storm fallout.
"Some areas of the city are like a war zone," Olson said. "The most surprising thing was just the scale of the damage. It’s just everywhere."
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Tree experts are asking city residents to have patience while they wait on forestry companies to respond to calls. As well, to not attempt to remove tree limbs on their own without certainty it is safe to do so.
"If you’ve never operated a chainsaw, now’s not the time to go to Home Depot and buy one," Panchuk said, adding he advises residents call a certified tree removal company instead.
Over the weekend, West End resident Lynn Almonte’s family took what was left of their lilac trees to the dump.
"The dump is just going to be inundated and (trees) are all going to start rotting," Almonte said, adding she thinks the city should set up the chipping depots, as it does during the holiday season for Christmas trees.
Maggie Macintosh Reporter
Maggie is a cub reporter who covers every beat in the newsroom. She appreciates alliteration, when newspaper ink stains her fingertips and, more importantly, tips on social and environmental equity issues.