|The May 22, 2011 tornado seriously damaged or destroyed many trees throughout Joplin and the surrounding areas. Some of the damaged trees may survive. Many more, unfortunately, will not. Instead, they now are considered hazardous and need to be removed in order to protect the public.
Many of these storm-damaged trees are in the hardest-hit areas, where Expedited Debris Removal (EDR) was authorized by the federal government to remove storm debris from properties that sustained extensive and catastrophic tornado damage in Jasper and Newton counties. Removal of hazardous trees, branches and stumps now will be incorporated into the debris-removal efforts from private, residential property in the EDR area, as well as from most public areas. This could mean flush-cutting a standing, dead or damaged tree to ground level; removing an entire tree, including its root ball, and/or removing the storm-damaged stump itself.
A tree is considered hazardous if the damage it has sustained was caused by the tornado, it poses an imminent threat to public health and safety, the tree is more than 6 inches in diameter and has one or more of the following conditions:
- More than 50 percent of the crown (upper branches and leaves) is damaged or destroyed;
- The trunk is split or branches are broken in such a way that the tree's heartwood is exposed;
- The tree has fallen or been uprooted;
- The tree is leaning at an angle greater than 30 degrees;
- There are hanging branches (2 inches or greater in diameter) that are creating an immediate threat to public health and safety or to improved property, such as a home, structure or public area;
- The storm-damaged tree has been reduced to a stump that has been uprooted and is exposing 50 percent or more of the root ball.
Removal of trees may be from: Public-use areas (parks, grounds of public/government buildings, public rights-of way, etc.); private, residential property in the EDR area for which a valid Right-of-Entry (ROE) form has been received (properties that the city of Joplin declares a public nuisance because of tornado debris will be handled the same as those with a signed, ROE form); residential areas outside of the EDR where hazardous trees, branches or stumps are impacting public property (i.e. rights-of-way) and the hazard can be removed without going onto private property. Homeowners are responsible for removing hazardous trees in a non-eligible area.
Arborists and other experts working as part of the government-funded debris-removal effort will evaluate storm-damaged trees, branches and stumps to determine whether they are hazardous and need to be removed. Trees that can be saved will be marked with a "K" for "Keep." Government-funded debris-removal crews will remove trees, branches and stumps that cannot be saved and haul them away. For safety, crews also will fill in any holes that result from the removal of these trees or stumps.
It's important to know that the presence of new leaves on tornado-damaged trees does not necessarily mean the tree will survive. It may just mean that the tree has some reserve energy that has been able to produce a new, short-term growth spurt that will eventually die off.
For questions about hazardous tree designations or removal, contact the city's Tornado Assistance Information Line (TAIL) at (417) 627-2900.