Crews scrambling to trim trees before Hurricane Dorian arrives

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – While many employers cancel work when a hurricane is on the way, it usually means the work is just beginning for tree trimmers.

That's especially true for tree trimmers in Northeast Florida who are getting slammed with phone calls before Hurricane Dorian, which became a major hurricane Friday as it bears down on Florida's coast.

Dorian isn't predicted to make landfall until sometime early next week, but trimmers are working to remove any trees and limbs that could pose potential hazards to power lines and people's homes.

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The din of running chainsaws is becoming a familiar noise in neighborhoods through Jacksonville and surrounding counties as crews scramble to get their work done before the hurricane's arrival.

"Everybody is slammed," said Gene Bushor, a certified arborist and owner of Bushor's Tree Surgeons who has been in the tree-trimming industry for 65 years. His phone has been ringing off the hook.

He said there's simply no way he'll reach everyone before the storm gets here.

"These trees didn't just die yesterday," he said. "They've been dead for years, probably some of them more than that, and everybody knows the storm is coming. This is Florida, hurricane season comes every year, but they'll all wait until the last minute."

Bushor isn't alone. Gage Tree Care, a company based in Amelia Island, is having to turn down routine maintenance requests because of the volume of calls that keep coming in.

The company is only taking day-of calls if they're absolute emergencies. One such case was a home that took a glancing blow from a falling branch that weighs approximately 1,000 pounds. The trimmers said if they had not removed that limb, it could have crushed the home at the height of the storm.

"You hope to have it done before the storm gets here, but if unfortunately you haven't had it done, just try to be safe in your situation," said Joshua Stafford, an arborist and Gage Tree Care's general manager.

It was the danger presented by a tree in front of a cemetery off Beach Boulevard that led crews to remove it, piece by piece, Friday morning. It took them about 30 minutes to take it down to a stump. In that case, the owner did not want it to fall on the power lines running nearby.

These tree experts said if you can't get your yard work done before the storm, sleep in a room of the house that's farthest away from your trees and large branches. They also warned against leaving debris in the street that could become projectiles during the storm.

About the Authors:

Maggie Lorenz

Multi-media journalist

Brittany Muller

Multi-media journalist with a special interest in Georgia issues.