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Tornadoes leave a windfall for tree firms

June 18, 1998|By GUY FLETCHER

The calls began coming in to Antietam Tree & Lawn Service soon after the powerful storms ripped through the Tri-State area Tuesday evening, and kept coming in until 11 p.m. that night.

On Thursday the phones were still ringing.

"This is the probably the worst storm I've ever seen," said Roger Finn, owner of Antietam Tree.

Like many businesses in the area, Antietam Tree has been trying to deal with an overwhelming number of requests from area residents and business owners anxious to have fallen trees and large branches removed from their homes, cars and yards.

Tuesday's storms, which generated at least three tornadoes in Washington County with winds up to 100 mph, toppled trees and power lines and ripped off roofs. As a result, many local companies are busier than usual.

"It was astronomical here. It just did not stop," said Connie Edleblute, receptionist for Lowery's Tree & Turf, who estimated she took about 200 calls on Wednesday.

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The need for tree service companies has been so great that many firms have had to turn away business.

"I can't even get back with everyone," said Wilbur Carbaugh, owner of Carbaugh Tree Service.

Marilynda Lowery, owner of Preferred Arbor Care, said her company has been prioritizing, taking jobs where the need is the greatest, such as cases in which the downed trees are on cars or homes.

Lowery said while the storm has made business boom, it's nothing to celebrate.

"Obviously we're grateful for the work, but never at the expense of someone's property," Lowery said.

And cleanup can be expensive.

Hagerstown Business College President Jim Gifford said estimates for removing fallen trees from the school's property are between $8,000 and $12,000. The work will not be covered by insurance, he said.

Rest Haven Cemetery owner Charles Brown said it's too early to tell how much the storm will cost him. Although many trees and branches were knocked down in the cemetery, only four headstones were overturned.

"It is sort of amazing," Brown said.

Brown said much of the cleanup work will be done by his own staff. Then a contractor likely will be brought in to haul away the large trees.

Because many of the downed trees are decades old, and often have sentimental value to their owners, many said it's difficult to place a true value on their worth.

"You make money at it, but it's tough seeing a lady standing there crying in her lawn," said Rocky Trolio, owner of Allegany Tree and Lawn Service in Fairplay.

Trolio said he has seen several unlicensed, out-of-state contractors working in the area, cutting down trees that could be saved.

"They're trying to soak people for more money, and in all cases the tree does not have to come down," he said.

Ted Shank, owner of Ted's Rent-Center, said his Hagerstown company was doing brisk business on rentals of generators, wood chippers and chain saws.

"It's nothing like (the business) a flood brings in, but definitely for those items it's been heavy," he said.

related stories:




Tornado accounts

Some areas still without power day after tornadoes hit

Wednesday night storm adds to outages

Winds batter Tri-State area

Storm damages W.Va. houses, trees

Witnesses say they saw Pa. twister

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