Who Pays for Hurricane Clean Up in the United States?

Hurricanes are one of the worst disasters in terms of loss of life and damage to property. Unfortunately, some scientists are speculating that 2022 may be another bad year for hurricanes because of warmer water in the Gulf of Mexico.

Governments, municipalities and utility companies should be prepared and on alert for massive storm damage. Hurricane cleanup, including debris clearing and damaged tree removal, should ideally be budgeted for in advance, if possible.

The Risk of Hurricanes in 2022 and Beyond

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1-November 30. While the chance for hurricanes usually peaks around early- to mid-September, August can also be a big month for hurricanes. While most hurricanes hitting the United States happen during the months of June to November, 3% can still occur beyond the typical hurricane season.

Will 2022 end up being a record-breaking year for hurricanes? We won’t fully know if this year is record setting until hurricane season passes, but it looks like 2022’s weather conditions are especially good for massive tropical storms.

Why? Scientists have noted that the “Loop Current,” which is a stream of warmer water that comes up from the Gulf Stream current and warms the Gulf of Mexico, had already traveled far into the Gulf of Mexico by mid-May, much farther than usual.

A warmer Loop Current has the potential to feed larger storms and create massive hurricanes. Hurricanes need warmer water if they want to grow.

Unfortunately, the 2022 Loop Current pattern mirrors the path of the Gulf current in 2005, which is when the deadly Hurricane Katrina hit. Thus, the Northern Gulf Coast, including areas between Texas, Louisiana and Florida, are a great risk for massive storms throughout this hurricane season.

The Costs of Deadly Hurricanes

Hurricanes are extremely costly, both from a human life perspective and economically. According to NOAA, between 2019 and 2021 alone, the United States experienced 56 weather and climate disasters with costs exceeding $1 billion.

Tropical cyclones or hurricanes caused the most damage and death between 1980 and 2021, with $1.1 trillion in total damage and 6,697 deaths. The cost of all this hurricane damage averages out to $20.5 billion per hurricane (of course, some were far more damaging than others, such as Hurricane Katrina).

But who pays for hurricane clean up in the United States?

Hurricane Cleanup: Who Pays?

A variety of entities end up picking up the tab for hurricane damage, from the federal government to local municipalities. Beyond federal and state disaster relief funding, local governments are often required to tap into reserve funds or utilize credit to fund hurricane cleanup.

Insurance companies may cover some of the costs, but individual homeowners are often left with a large chunk of the cleanup bill.

Local and regional utility companies also need to dig into budgets to pay for necessary infrastructure repair, including utility line repair and tree clearing.

Vegetation Management and Tree Clearing

One of the main sources of damage during a hurricane are trees and vegetation, which can quickly get entangled in power lines or worse, become uprooted. Trees can cause a number of problems during and after a massive tropical storm including:

Fallen Branches and Debris

During a hurricane, tree branches can often fall and bring structures as well as utility lines down with them. The debris can get in roads and block travel, causing all sorts of havoc.

Uprooted and Broken Trees

It’s not uncommon for tree trunks to snap completely during a hurricane, which can cause property damage and death. These fallen trees can also be a major source of power outages. Trees are also often completely uprooted during hurricanes, especially when soil is moist from heavy rainfall.

Unstable Trees

Trees can shift after a hurricane due to the erosion of the soil as well as flooding. If the tree’s roots are saturated for a long time with water, they can drown, which can lead to root rot. Once this happens, the trees are prone to falling, which can cause problems with power lines and put people in danger.

Proactive Vegetation Management to Reduce Hurricane Costs

Because of all the dangers that can come from hurricane tree damage, it is very important for municipalities and utility companies to be proactive about cleaning up trees that might be harmed during a hurricane.

Ongoing, proactive vegetation management before a hurricane hits can help reduce the problem of trees harming power lines and transformers if a storm does barrel through the area.

During extremely strong storms, of course, even the most well-maintained, stable trees can be harmed, but if excess vegetation and sick trees are pruned prior to a storm, then there will be fewer chances of problems.

Keeping trees properly trimmed before a storm can potentially save costs, as it is far cheaper to maintain vegetation proactively than fix damage caused by a tree in a howling storm.

Tree Service Providers for Hurricane Preparedness

One of the most important entities involved in hurricane cleanup is a tree service provider (like Townsend Tree Service), which can be brought in to help municipalities and utility companies for emergency storm response. Tree service providers should also be tapped to clear vegetation proactively, on an ongoing basis.

Also, if a hurricane is forecast to hit an area, it’s a good idea to contact a tree service provider such as Townsend Tree Service ahead of time. If there is sufficient time ahead of the storm, the tree service provider can assess the trees that are close to power lines and prune or clear out any that are growing too close or at risk of falling during a massive storm.

Townsend Tree Service is a leading, multi-state provider of expert tree trimming, line clearing and vegetation management services. We have extensive expertise helping utilities get the power back on after major disasters like hurricanes. Learn more about our integrated vegetation management services here.

What Does “Net Zero Carbon” Really Mean for Cities?

Climate change is at the forefront of many people’s minds, what with recent weather anomalies such as winter tornados and other natural disasters. One of the potential solutions to climate change is reducing carbon emissions. For many, the goal isn’t just reduction, but elimination of carbon emission, called “net zero.”

The idea behind net zero carbon emissions is that, through the creative use of technology and sustainability practices, we can stop excess carbon from polluting the atmosphere. This, in turn, will help maintain the average global temperature.

Since modern cities are some of the biggest culprits in terms of carbon output, creating net zero carbon cities is a major focus.

Cities and Carbon Emissions

The World Economic Forum, along with more than 70 organizations, is promoting a multi-year initiative called Net Zero Carbon Cities. With 8 billion people on the planet, who mostly live in cities, creating smart strategies for climate change is essential. The number of global city dwellers is expected to go up in the future, with more than two-thirds of the world population set to live in urban landscapes by 2050.

Because of the vast number of people that are and will be living in cities, transforming them into net zero carbon cities must be a top priority. Without better technologies, cities can be a major source of air pollution and carbon emissions.

Cities can also contribute to the heating of the planet even without carbon emissions. How? The lack of trees and addition of asphalt, concrete and other hard surfaces end up trapping and exacerbating heat from the sun. The worst city areas with no trees can become hot, hellish “urban heat islands” that can be critically dangerous to residents during a bad heatwave.

Cities also have other impacts on the environment, from the waste that gets thrown down storm drains to the trash that gets put into landfills (even landfill trash, by the way, contributes to climate change because of the methane it produces).

The New Vision for Net Zero Carbon Cities

To transform cities to net zero carbon will take a combined effort of government, private business and citizens. Each must do their part in order to reduce and mitigate greenhouse gas transmission. However, it’s not just important to control climate change. These changes into a new way of being should also help create better jobs, enable citizen participation and improve health and wellbeing. The new systems should be resilient and, of course, renewable.

In essence, we’re looking to create a future city that is its own urban biosphere, one that works more in harmony with nature than simply displacing it—which is what cities of old used to do.

These new, transformed net zero carbon cities will have a number of features. These include:

● Better roads and traffic systems that reduce congestion
● Improved water treatment, sewage administration and recycling
● More solar panels as well as greenery such as gardens on rooftops
● Smart technologies that enable better use of resources and energy
● Livable, walkable neighborhoods that offer ample tree canopies as well as mixed-use shops and residential areas
● Bike routes to reduce the need for cars, at least among the young and fit
● Better public transportation options that are greener, faster and safer
● Workplaces that don’t require unnecessary travel and on-site work when remote work can accomplish the same tasks with fewer carbon impacts

Upgrading Energy Systems and Utilities

A key part of transforming cities will be upgrading energy systems and infrastructure. The old energy systems in the United States were typically centralized and one-way. But this is an outdated way of doing things. For example, since the advent of solar panels, we could potentially see a lot more energy generated from residential homes that could be sold back to energy companies. Thus, a more distributed model of energy development and management could be utilized.

Smart technologies along with the Internet of Things (IoT) will be an important part of net zero carbon cities in the future. These technologies can be used to track electricity usage and pinpoint areas of waste and overuse. These advances in technology will help urban planners and architects better design buildings and public spaces to be more energy efficient.

Finally, during this transition, we will see many more electric cars on the streets. Many governments are working towards completely eliminating fossil fuel motor vehicles in the next few decades. While this change will require the buy-in of the public, it will eventually be adopted by most. Additionally, self-driving cars may create an environment where individual ownership is no longer necessary for everyone, and cars will be able to be utilized as needed.

Overall, the future of net zero carbon cities is bright.

Townsend Tree is a provider of tree trimming, hazardous tree removal and debris clearing for utilities, governments and energy companies. We are committed to a net zero carbon future. Contact us today for more information on how we can keep energy systems up and running.

What Would Happen If There Were No Trees?

On April 22, we celebrate Earth Day to remind ourselves to be grateful for our home planet. Earth Day is also about protecting the planet from pollution and deforestation by encouraging simple environmental actions such as picking up litter and planting trees.

It leaves us wondering: What would happen if there were no trees? Trees are so important to our well-being, but so often, we forget about their significance. If all the trees on planet Earth suddenly disappeared, it would be devastating to our environment.

The Negative Impact of Deforestation

Imagine a world without one tree on it. We have, of course, examples in our own solar system. Earth is the only planet in our system with trees. If you’ve ever seen footage of Mars, you may have noted how bleak and desolate the planet looks.

That’s because Mars has no trees.

Certainly, Mother Earth has her fair share of sandy deserts and desolate areas, such as Antarctica, that don’t contain any vegetation. But Earth is a forest planet in many respects—at least, it was.

Earth’s rich tree ecosystem has been quickly deteriorating since the Industrial Revolution enabled machines to advance material “progress.” The result? Far fewer trees on the planet.

In fact, early settlers to the United States didn’t really realize the value of the forests they ran across. In the 1800s and early 1900s, many beautiful large sequoias and redwoods were mowed down prior to our modern conservationist movement.

This led to approximately “96 percent of the original old-growth coast redwoods” being logged, according to the National Park Service. These old-growth forests were a national treasure that we cannot get back because it took hundreds and thousands of years to initially grow those trees. The world has lost 420 million hectares of forest since 1990. Agriculture and commercial business accounts for much of this loss of critical forest.

The Many Benefits of Trees

Trees offer many benefits to people and the planet. They are an important part of the ecological cycles of nature. People breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. Plants basically do the reverse: they take in carbon dioxide and emit oxygen. For this reason, trees should be an integral part of any climate change mitigation strategy.

Trees don’t just take CO2 out of the air. They also remove common pollutants from the air we breathe, including particle matter (such as from car exhaust) and pollutant gases, including sulfur dioxide and ammonia. If you want to filter the air in your home, houseplants or small trees can help.

Trees also perform other important ecological functions such as reducing soil erosion and providing a home for animals like birds and monkeys.

Additionally, shade from trees helps to cool things down in hot summers. City neighborhoods that do not have a lot of trees are much hotter on average than neighborhoods with trees. Loads of concrete, brick and asphalt in a neighborhood can create what is called an “urban heat island,” which can be very unpleasant in the summer. These heat islands can become deadly, especially for the elderly. For example, in Baltimore, where efforts have been made to plant trees in poor neighborhoods, a study found an eight-degree difference between the hottest and coolest “Charm City” neighborhoods, with the coolest neighborhoods boasting 10 times more trees than the hottest.

Trees also beautify an area and make it more attractive and livable. This doesn’t even account for the psychological benefits afforded by natural beauty.

In short, a world without trees would be a very miserable world indeed.

How to Take Care of Trees

Trees can often do just fine when left to their own devices. However, in the modern era, with so much pollution and issues such as depleted soil, a little tree nurturing can go a long way. First, make sure you plant the right tree for your landscape. Considerations should include the amount of sunlight, the type of soil, the room for the tree’s growth and the climate. Planting a palm tree in Michigan is simply not going to end well!

Water is especially necessary when trees are first planted. In the Baltimore nonprofit initiative to plant trees in the city, they estimated that each tree would need 20 gallons per week to get established over two years.

Fertilizer and mulch can help strengthen trees and give them the nutrition and moist soil they need for healthy growth.

Pruning is also a very important part of tree maintenance. Trimming tree branches does not harm trees. In fact, pruning properly can actually strengthen the core tree structure. Deadwood on a tree can actually cause poor tree health. It can also be a hazard, not just to power lines but to people walking by.

If you represent a government or energy company and need professional vegetation management, Townsend Tree is a respected provider of tree trimming and debris clearing. Contact us today for more information on how we can keep your energy systems up and running.

Why Electric Power Is Often Cut During Snowstorms

Big winter snowstorms can cause a lot of havoc, from dangerous, icy roadways to frozen water pipes. Power outages are also a big risk during a blizzard or heavy snowfall, and these blackouts can put a lot of stress on municipalities. Here are some of the common reasons why power goes out during snowstorms and what can be done to prevent it.

How Snow and Ice Impact Power Lines

In the winter, two of the biggest dangers to power lines are snow and ice. While a little bit of snow might not cause too many problems, a big snow dump can start to weigh down trees and even power lines. Ice is even more dangerous, as it can become quite heavy. Ice and snow together could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, causing large tree limbs to fall or roofs to collapse.

Downed tree branches can land on power lines, taking out electricity for large swaths of customers.

Ice in and of itself poses a great risk to power lines since it is so heavy. Ice can short out power lines and completely take them down with just one inch of precipitation.

Local distribution lines, especially the ones that transport power in rural areas, are typically the most at risk. These lines are usually much more vulnerable because these areas are much less likely to engage in regular tree pruning and maintenance. Long-distance high voltage power lines usually fare better due to ongoing tree maintenance but can still be vulnerable to heavy ice storms.

Why Extremely Cold Temperatures Cause Power Outages

Even if the power lines stay up, extremely cold weather can put a tremendous amount of stress on the power grid. Some electrical system components may fail since they simply can’t handle the colder temperatures.

Excess cold means more people will be turning up the heat, which can add to the load on the electric grid. In the devastating deep freeze that hit Texas in February of 2021, rolling power outages were implemented to try to alleviate grid strain. The deadly winter storm took almost 250 lives according to the state of Texas, with 161 of those related to extreme cold exposure.

These types of tragic deaths can hopefully be prevented in the future through better planning as well as improved technologies.

Winter Wind Poses a Danger to Power Lines

2021 wasn’t just a bad year for cold weather, it was a year in which we saw a lot of December tornados. And while you don’t normally get a tornado with snow, blizzards can often come blustering in via strong winds. These winds can impact power lines directly and indirectly through falling tree limbs.

Animals Can Also Damage Power Lines in the Winter

Both land- and air-based animals can threaten power lines and cause power outages. Birds can unfortunately fly into power lines and squirrels have a habit of chewing on things. Some animals may also try to take shelter in or near equipment like transformers during the winter due to the heat emitted. They may end up damaging the equipment in the process.

> Birds are vulnerable to electrocution by power lines, and they are more vulnerable when wet. If you ever wondered why birds can sit on power lines, it’s simply because they have two feet on the same wire, so the electricity doesn’t need to travel through the bird. But if the bird accidentally touches a different wire or another part of the same wire with a wing, the electrical polarity changes and the bird can get zapped.

Flying into power lines is the bigger problem and kills tens of millions of birds each year. High voltage power lines (as opposed to distribution power lines) create the biggest threat to birds. The electricity being delivered is so strong, it ionizes the air and causes a voltage gradient that gets stronger the closer you get to it. Birds can usually sense this electricity in the air and will steer clear … unless they are flying too fast. In this case, a bird can be literally electrocuted in the air by the voltage gradient without even touching a wire. If they do end up crashing into a line, they can cause a lot of damage.

Preventing Power Outages in the Winter

Utility companies can take some proactive actions to reduce winter power outages. Properly maintained power lines will be less likely to fail during a storm. Keeping trees and debris cleared away from lines and equipment is also essential. Routine equipment inspections should be a key part of every winter storm plan. As for animals and pests, some of these incidences cannot be prevented but a variety of anti-pest and animal protection measures can potentially help, such as perch deterrents.

Keep the power on during the winter with professional vegetation management from Townsend Tree, a reliable provider of tree trimming and debris clearing for utilities, local governments and energy companies. Contact us today to find out how we can keep your energy systems working during the winter.