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Tree removal rescue

Tyler Klug, left, and Shaun Erickson of Erickson Tree Service resharpen their chainsaws after a day of cutting down trees on Friday afternoon at their shop Northeast of Mitchell. (Matt Gade / Republic)1 / 2
Tree branches are chopped up and stacked along East First Avenue in Mitchell. (Matt Gade / Republic)2 / 2

Mitchell residents can expect to see a lot of tree work next week.

After last week's severe snowstorm that rocked much of South Dakota, the city of Mitchell declared the spring blizzard an emergency and will be tasked with removing leftover tree branches on boulevards across the city from April 22 to April 26 during the annual spring cleanup.

According to Parks and Recreation Director Nathan Powell, the city is responsible for removing or trimming tree branches on city boulevards only when a weather-related emergency is declared. With the city's emergency declaration due to the blizzard, it will have two departments hard at work during the spring cleanup removing branches from boulevards.

"We do trim and remove branches at no charge due to weather or emergency," Powell said. "So this ice storm falls under that no-charge category, since it was declared an emergency."

According to Kyle Croce, the city Street and Sanitation Department crew members will be joined by the Parks and Recreation Department to collect and remove all of the boulevard trees leftover from last week's storm. Croce said residents are supposed to collect the branches along the boulevard for crews to remove them.

"The Parks and Recreation Department is really set up nicely to do a lot of tree removal, so it's great they will be helping us as well," Croce said in an interview with The Daily Republic.

While city crews will be working overtime during the four-day cleanup timespan, Croce suggested using private tree services for removing large tree trunks due to the limited volume of trees that can fit at the city's compost yard located at 1405 W. Eighth Ave. near the Highway 37 Bypass.

Already busy removing hazardous tree branches has been Erickson Tree Service, a local tree removal company which braved the extreme elements during the recent snowstorm to keep homeowners and their properties safe.

"We had our whole crew working all day, and we had so many unique challenges removing and cutting trees during that snowstorm," said Shawn Erickson, co-owner of Erickson Tree Service. "We literally had to set up jobs like a triage, because some of the trees were sitting in such dangerous spots on people's property."

Chief among the many challenges the extreme weather brought to the local tree service was carefully removing hazardous tree branches that were sitting on power lines and rooftops of homes.

"We had to take trees off of houses and service lines, and some trees were even blocking entryways of homes," said Erickson, who's been managing his local tree removal business for three years. "We carefully remove all of the trees we attend to, but some service lines were affected in order for us to remove the branches to keep everyone safe."

When weather elements cause dangerous tree cutting conditions, Erickson said following proper safety precautions is vital for him, his staff and homeowners.

"You can't just go up there and start cutting away, you have to rig it down and be conscious of not damaging anything to the house, like gutters and porches, below a tree," Erickson said. "There is science and art to it, and it's fun, but it's an extremely dangerous job."

Erickson said his crew averaged seven homes per day during the two-day snowstorm, noting he cut tree trunks up to 2 feet in diameter during the blizzard.

While Erickson Tree Service has been utilizing all five of its crew members around the clock the past week, it will be getting help from the city of Mitchell beginning April 22, which is when the city-wide spring and tree branch cleanup kicks off.

"We've got the spring cleanup already budgeted, so we have the crews' time and overtime schedules in the budget, because they will be spending more curbside time cleaning up trees on top of appliances," Croce said.

The street and sanitation crews will have their hands full managing the compost yard during the spring cleanup, as Croce said they will have assigned sections for leaves, branches and sandbag returns.

"We're offering people to bring their sandbags back from the flooding issues we had a while back, and we would really like people to bring their sandbags to the compost during the four-day cleanup," Croce said.

While spring is in the air, Erickson's workload hasn't slowed, given the volume of broken tree branches and trunks sprinkled across Mitchell. Erickson said his company's wood chipper is the final step in the tree removal process, which has been filling the 11 foot truck bed once a day for the past week and a half.

"The city landfill will take the wood chips, and I get calls for people wanting to use it for goat pens and their soil," Erickson said. "The wood chips are nitrogen-rich, so it's really good for soil and people till it into their gardens and such."

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