Long cleanup ahead for tree cutters

  • Luis Garcia from McGinty Bros. Inc. uses a chain saw Tuesday to remove a fallen tree from the roof of a residence on Brierwoods Lane in Hawthorn Woods.

      Luis Garcia from McGinty Bros. Inc. uses a chain saw Tuesday to remove a fallen tree from the roof of a residence on Brierwoods Lane in Hawthorn Woods. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

Updated 7/13/2011 6:44 AM

The damage from the storm that tore through northern Illinois Monday morning is the worst Andrew Keppel has seen in about five years.

The tree care manager at McGinty Bros., a Long Grove-based tree service company with offices in Wauconda and Lisle, said it could take more than two weeks to clean up the mess.


"It is pretty shocking how some of these trees were literally ripped out of the ground and thrown onto houses," said Keppel, who has worked for the company for about eight years. "I saw a tree that was projectiled through the siding and window of a house in Lake Zurich. It was hanging over the bed."

On Tuesday, the company had 12 employees out on the streets working on tree removal.

For Keppel and dozens of other tree removal specialists, the workload was busy before the storm with maintenance and management. Now, they have to prioritize.

Ken Nelson, owner of Nelson -- 'The Cure for Trees', Inc., a tree care company that serves McHenry County, said any damage involving a structure is most important.

"Definitely stuff that's on a house is a priority," he said. "We get that safely on the ground and if we get another emergency call we'll go there before cleaning up. There's a lot of leapfrogging, but the main thing is to make everything as safe as possible."

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Once all of the dangerous trees are attended to, crews will begin clearing downed limbs and reducing large trees to wood chips.

Most of the removal crews chip branches and trunks that will later be used as landscape mulch.

The storm damage creates an even more dangerous situation for a tree cutter. Professional tree cutters have topped the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics' list of most dangerous jobs on numerous occasions.

After a storm, the stakes are raised due to downed power lines, compromised tree limbs and unseen dangers.

"When there is extra pressure in an already difficult situation, it makes the job twice as dangerous," said Joe Ubert, owner of American Tree Care in Mount Prospect.

The worst damage he has seen from Monday's storm is a cottonwood tree with a trunk measuring three feet in diameter that crashed through a home's sunroom with a glass roof. Another cottonwood narrowly missed a neighbor's home.


"We were still cleaning up from the storm a few weeks ago," Ubert said. "It could be three weeks to two months before this one is cleaned up and all of the broken branches are out of the trees."

To reduce the risk of a tree damaging your home or landing in the yard, Nelson recommends homeowners call a professional to cut back the canopies of large trees. While it's hard to prevent trees from coming down in 85 mph wind gusts, there are precautions homeowners can take, Nelson said.

"We tell customers to stand under a tree and look up through the leaves. If you can't see the sky, you need to have the crown thinned out," he said. "Every one of those leaves acts like a sail. You need to let the wind blow through the trees and reduce the stress."

Nelson also recommends using support cables to attach branches to another part of the tree.