BANGOR — John Russell, a dispatcher for the Bangor Public Works Department, spent Saturday afternoon answering the same questions over and over.
“If you can get them out to the side of the road we will be out to pick them up eventually,” he told residents who called about downed trees and tree limbs. “Keep them out of the road and off the sidewalk the best you can.”
That eventual cleanup may take awhile. Russell told callers that their debris piles, which in some areas tower 6 feet high, might be gone in two or three weeks. But get them out to the curb as soon as you can, he urged, because the city might start its cleanup in your area.
Roland Perry, Bangor’s city forester, was less optimistic. While praising the crews who worked long hours to clear the limbs and open city streets, he also appeared frustrated that the recovery could not be speeded up.
“This is the worst devastation I’ve seen in 33 years,” he said, cruising through the city to assess the losses. “We’ll be at least a month cleaning up the crap. … I can see just massive amounts of brush to haul.”
It could get worse. If a good snow comes before the piles are taken out and chipped, plows will cover the debris with snow that ultimately will freeze solid.
“I’m discouraged because I know there’s no way in God’s green earth I can get this stuff out before we get another snow on here,” he said. “I suspect a lot of it won’t come out until spring cleanup.”
The problem isn’t limited to getting downed branches off the streets. Many of the trees from which the branches fell will never recover from the losses and will have to be removed.
“The trees are still up, but for all practical purposes they’re destroyed,” he said.
Perry’s conservative estimate is that the city will have to remove more than 200 of the trees it tends along sidewalks and in city parks. That could cost $500 per tree for any tree, whether it is the city’s responsibility or that of an individual homeowner.
“We’re going to need some money,” he said. “This is going to be expensive.”
On Silver Road, north of Webster Avenue, Perry declared the amoung of damage “ungodly.” The street is lined with old silver maples, which along with willows have been the least resilient of the city’s trees. Huge limbs have fallen, some as big as decent-size tree trunks.
“Every end of this tree is gone,” Perry said, consigning the maple to death row.
At Broadway Park, Perry counted 10 trees that can’t be helped. He worried that neighbors will complain about losing so much of the greenery that beautifies their views.
“My God, I don’t know how we’re ever going to get that cleaned up,” he said.
Ultimately, though, Perry decided to send in a crew of National Guardsmen to move the downed limbs to the edge of the park where city workers can reach them with their equipment. One group of 20 Guardsmen came with hand tools and one chain saw, and for hours Perry was at a loss about where to deploy them.
His informal survey of the damage was peppered with comments about the losses.
“There’s another one gone,” he said every five minutes. “What a mess.”
And while he said the city will look substantially different when all of the trees have come down, nature, he said, will heal itself.
But nature also will have some help in Bangor, in the form of the roughly 300 seedlings Perry propagates and plants each year. “This year I can replace every tree that we take down and more,” he said.