A Regional Model for Storm Response

Volume 1, Number 3

July 1997

Springfield, MA -- The Winter of 1996-1997 was severely harsh on the urban forests of Southern New England, resulting in widespread damage and loss of trees growing in many of the urban and rural communities of the region. A severe snowstorm, accompanied by high winds, in early December 1996, caused widespread damage of street, park, and forested trees in most communities of Central and Western Massachusetts, and Northern Connecticut. A second, larger storm dumped up to 36 inches of wet, heavy snow on most of Massachusetts on March 31 - April 1, 1997. This storm resulted in the second largest single snowfall in Boston's history, and the fourth largest to affect most of Western Massachusetts. Damage from this storm was widespread, severe, and extremely costly to many communities in Massachusetts. Estimates of damage to trees from this storm range from $12 - $15 million across Massachusetts. The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, located in Boston, alone, estimated $ 2 million in damage to the facility. The storm resulted in the loss of electricity to over 200,000 households. Some of these outages lasted for over five days. Telephone and cable television service was also disrupted, with many households loosing these services for up to two weeks. Many communities across the region continue the clean-up of the winter damages today, and some estimate that the damage to their urban forest populations was so great, that they may never recover fully from the devastation.

Immediately following the December, 1996 storm, the USDA Forest Service Northeast Center for Urban and Community Forestry at Umass Amherst was requested by the City of Springfield and Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management to assist in responding to the storm emergency. Due to the severe emergency situation, staff from the Northeast Center agreed to work closely with officials to ensure immediate response to the needs of communities. Springfield, the third largest city in Massachusetts, with a population of 156,000 was particularly hard hit by the storm, with damage to an estimated 60 percent of its street trees, and loss of over 10 percent of the street tree population. Parks and recreation areas were also severely affected by the storm, with the loss of many large trees. An estimated $275,000 in damage to the public trees of Springfield resulted from the December storm. The Northeast Center was asked by City officials to assist in assessing the damage to the trees in the community and to spearhead regional storm damage assessments from communities in Western and Central Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management also requested that the Northeast Center facilitate the delivery of Preliminary Storm Damage Assessment (PDA) paperwork to the City Forester in communities affected by the storm. The Northeast Center was able to respond to both requests by providing assistance to the City of Springfield in its storm damage assessment and sending PDA forms out to over 200 Massachusetts communities.

As a result of the second storm, which ended on April 1, 1997, the assistance of the Northeast Center for Urban & Community Forestry was again requested to compile damage assessments from the storm. Additionally, the City of Springfield was severely impacted by the storm and requested the Center's assistance in developing a response in order to request state reimbursement for the storm emergency. The Center provided technical assistance to both requests, and agreed to work closely with the City of Springfield in the development of long-range plans for responding to storm emergencies, and to develop model procedures that can be transferred to communities throughout the Northeast region.

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Site last modified by Adam Esten: September 9, 2004
URL for this site: http://www.umass.edu/urbantree