PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The count of trees that broke and fell in the Rose City climbed throughout Monday as Portland thawed out from the latest snowfall it’s seen in recorded history.
Downed trees closed Highway 26, were found at parks around town, and even delayed the Streetcar because of a tree that fell on its route.
“Our Portland Parks & Recreation, urban forestry crews are responding to more than 200 tree emergencies citywide,” said Mark Ross, the public information officer with Portland Parks & Recreation.
Hundreds of branches fell, saturated with spring moisture with some sprouting leaves, leaving more surface area for wet, heavy snow to land. The weight was too much for the limbs to bear and the result crippled the network of roads around the Portland metro area.
A list of road closures, from Cornelius Pass to Skyline Road and the main artery from the west to the city, Sunset Highway 26, were brought to a halt for the loose timber.
“We assess every highway, and we look into trees, how close they are to the highway, can they make it to the highway if they fall?” Ted Miller, the operations manager for ODOT region one, said.
Miller says the agency has a “Tree Corridor Plan” that looks at trees near state highways and assesses short-term and long-term needs to address them.
Miller admits, however, that there is no way the department can catch them all.
“A lot of those trees [Monday] morning are trees that you know are compromised by health and a lot of those trees you really can’t tell they’re compromised. They may have green tops, the bark is still on, and they look fairly good, but maybe they’re rotting from the inside out. And that’s what we found on Highway 26,” Miller said.
When it comes to the city, nearly nothing has been done to identify trees at risk of falling until this year.
In 2020, voters approved a Park Levy override funding to support operations and programs within Portland Parks & Recreation to fund things, “including safety checks, hazard removal, replacement of damaged trees, and other such work to some trees in PP&R parks and natural areas,” said Mark Ross, the public information officer for the department.
“For the first time, we’re getting parks levy funds to care for Park trees, and the levy funds will in part go to some of those trees and parks and natural areas to do some proactive maintenance and assessments like that,” Ross said.
Storm cleanup for trees in streets is funded by the city’s share of the Oregon Gas Tax. Trees fallen in parks are paid for by the City’s General Fund.
Storm cleanup itself is likely to take weeks, Ross said. Forestry crews were working throughout Monday to clear trees from city streets and thoroughfares, and in many cases, left behind log piles to get to the next job.
“With dozens and dozens of issues, we want to make sure that those crews are freed up as soon as possible to go to the next emergency. And within a few weeks, they will come back. It could take up to a few weeks for them to remove the wood” Ross said.
Any downed trees that are outside of a private property can be reported to 503-823-TREE (8733). Trees fallen on private property are the responsibility of the property owner.