'We'll be cleaning up after this all year': Dec. 14 ice storm damage a work in progress

EUGENE, Ore. - A tree crew worked Wednesday to remove a Douglas fir damaged by the December 2016 ice storm from a wooded area of Hendricks Park.

The tree had tipped and lodged on another tree, creating a potential hazard for parkgoers.

"So he's trying to break it where he was cutting it, and hopefully that part will peel down," Cory Shields of Buena Vista Arbor Care said, narrating the effort. "As the weight shifts it will hopefully break free up top there, and come back down."

It took a few tries ...

... but the tree finally fell in the woods.

One down.

Thousands to go.

"All told between parks and rights of way, there's probably 2,500 trees that we've identified that need to be addressed for safety concerns," said Ryan Turner with the City of Eugene.

Contract tree crews have addressed maybe half that number so far.

"What you see in Hendricks is typical," Turner said. "We have contract crews working in here for 4 days straight."

And that's a sign of the severity of damage from the December 14 ice storm.

"Initially we thought this storm was going to be comparable to the snow storm in 2012 or the ice storm in 2014," Turner said.

So far, the damage from the 2016 storm stands out.

"I think we'll be cleaning up after this all year," said Ben Kubas from BWK Tree Care in Eugene. "We're still just getting to the end of our emergency work, still pulling trees off houses."

Kubas and his crews have tackled damage on private property for their clients in the month since the storm.

"Huge tree parts breaking, landing on structures. Trees uprooting, pulling up roads and driveways," he said of some of the damage he's seen.

Subsequent snow storms slowed efforts by both private tree companies and the City of Eugene.

"We haven't even begun some of the slated removal because of the storms," Kubas said.

And the City had to pull crews off of debris removal to plow and treat roads after the snowstorms on January 4 and January 7.

The latter storm dumped a record-setting 4.5 inches of snow, besting the previous record of 2 inches set January 7, 1901.

Now those crews are back to work on storm debris.

"Our recent warmer weather has allowed crews to go back into neighborhoods where they’re picking up downed trees and limbs from public trees that are on streets and sidewalks," Brian Richardson with Public Works said Wednesday. "Public Works would like to stress that this will be a lengthy process. Crews will have to assess hazards and clear debris from more than 500 miles of streets and more than 60 parks and natural areas. It will take a few months to move through the entire city."

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