Highway Department and PSEG-LI crews are out on the streets of Huntington, removing trees that pose a threat to power lines and residents’ safety.
With recent reports of falling trees, one of which killed a firefighter from Long Island who was visiting North Carolina, and another that nearly landed on a woman driving on Wolf Hills Road, experts are warning homeowners to pay attention to their trees.
On Thursday, a town highway crew removed a tree on Hardwick Drive that had become entangled in power lines, posing a threat to electric service. At about the same time, a PSEG-LI contractor was cutting down a tree on Vondran Street in Huntington Station, which threatened both power service and two driveways. At least least one major limb of the Vondran Street tree was showing significant signs of disease.
Town Highway Superintendent Andre Sorrentino said that his department and PSEG representatives meet once a week to coordinate their crews. He said the department has just three tree crews and trucks, and needs more manpower to get the work done, with about the highway department having 130 workers, down from 200 in the past, he said. The department removes from 500 to 600 of trees a year, and tries to replant 250-300 trees a year but not every resident wants a replacement, he said. The department also conducts an annual survey of trees. “This allows us to get a better gauge on what declining trees we have in our township,” he said. “Tree safety is something we take very seriously.”
PSEG Mark Cerqueira, PSEG Long Island manager of vegetation management, said that the utility works with customers while trying to protect the power service. Every storm that interrupts service brings complaints from residents. But trees are popular, for privacy and natural beauty, he said.
A recent drive around Huntington revealed plenty of examples of trees growing through power lines, in some cases hanging out over streets, or impeding the sight lines of intersections and traffic signs.
The utility “has made a pretty robust commitment to the hazard tree program,” he said. On the North Shore, the hilly natural landscape, its winding roads and taller trees means the power service is more vulnerable to damage.
But even healthy trees can be a threat, Cerqueira said. “We have seen perfectly healthy trees come down in rain or just a little wind. Other times, trees are beinging eaten from the inside by insects—it’s important (residents) do tree maintenance on their own trees.”
A PSEG crew said one indicator that a tree is vulnerable is mushrooms growing at its base, evidence that rot has developed in the tree. And Sorrentino said, “Look up into the tree and see if there is any deadwood that could fall down and cause harm.”
To report a problem tree to the Highway Department, call 631-499-0444 of visit huntingtonny.gov/highway