Beaufort County tree removal professionals say they’re still booked for months solid three weeks after Tropical Storm Hermine hit the Lowcountry, leveling hundreds of trees in its wake.
The storm brought winds up to 55 mph to Hilton Head Island and the Beaufort area on Sept. 2 and caused widespread power outages, tree damage and at least three displaced households in the county after trees fell through homes.
But three weeks later, the county has still not fully recovered. Dangling branches and even some trees left on homes remain throughout the Hilton Head and Beaufort areas, tree removal experts say.
“It’s the worst I’ve seen in my 16 years working on the island,” said James Jones, of Jones Brothers’ Tree Surgeons on Hilton Head. “There was a consistent wind all day and that’s what brought a lot down.”
Jones said his company has been working removal jobs seven-days-a-week since the storm and is still booked for two months for removal services.
Leonard Mink of Leonard Mink Tree Service, agreed. His Hilton Head company has been working nonstop and is booked into November with all the damage.
The sandy soil on Hilton Head, along with the prevalence of trees on the island, contributed to the number of trees and branches that fell, Mink said.
“I’m still getting calls for trees that are laying on people’s houses,” Mink said Thursday. “Some trees fell on the back of vacation homes and aren’t being discovered until now.”
Northern Beaufort County is seeing the same backups for tree service.
Sea Island Tree Care in Beaufort is booked through December, said office manager Cindy Becker.
Becker said that a string of other storms in August already filled the schedule for the company before Hermine brought more emergency calls that contributed to a backlog.
Southern Tree Services in Beaufort is booked into November, according to office manager Jessica Doray.
Some residents with damage that hasn’t been cleared are worried about the implications for their homeowners insurance and had safety concerns from the downed trees.
Some tenants at the 90 Dillon Apartments off Dillon Rd., for example, still have large trees laying on two buildings in the low-income complex.
One three-story tree that fell in the middle of the night Sept. 2 has been covered with a tarp and remained on the roof for three weeks. Another two-story tree was propped up with a wood plank.
Residents say they are concerned about the safety of the buildings, especially when it rains.
Property manager Steve Norman told The Island Packet that he planned to get the trees removed by Friday.
“I got quotes, but the companies were booked solid for three weeks,” Norman said.
Several tree companies said, however, that they will make priority for emergency removals when a structure or roadway is impacted.
For dangling branches that don’t pose an immediate risk, it is likely that property owners will have to wait weeks for tree service now, the companies say.
“If a branch is already down on the ground, not hanging, you will probably be better contacting a landscaping company than tree removal,” Mink said. “They can usually help for that kind of work.”
And the calls will keep coming, the companies say.
Many homeowners may not even realize there is damage on their property until late fall, when damaged branches become visible after the trees lose their leaves.
“I always expect a second wave,” Mink said. “This isn’t the end of it.”