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Oklahoma Ice Blog

Notes from the Southern Region response to the Oklahoma Ice Storm (December 2007). The Urban Forest Strike Team (UFST) developed by North Carolina and Virginia U&CF programs with assistance from Urban Forestry South provides post-disaster tree assessment assistance to state U&CF programs and communities in the southern region. See February 8th entry for discussion of the "Tulsa Model" and FEMA pilot program for debris payments.

Ice Response: Summary [February 5 - March 2]

March 11

Check back on March 11th for a final summary of the UFST work in Tulsa, Bixby, and Nichols Hills and the evaluation of the UFST response by UFST crews and team leaders.

Ice Response: Week 4 Begins [February 24 - March 1]

March 2

More Oklahoma winter storms are threatening! Snow and tornadoes!

Final reports (FEMA costsheets) and field maps delivered to Tulsa Parks & Recreation.
Tree assessments in Tulsa completed for 6 parks and 2 trails:
  • 2,099 tree removals
  • 1,688 trees with hangers
  • 336 trees with recommendations (e.g. hazard, restorative pruning) that are beyond FEMA debris standards
Assessments assume that trees with FEMA debris hangers will also have restorative pruning.

Parks and trails included:
  • Creek Turnpike Trail (3 miles)
  • East Tract Park
  • Explorer Parks
  • Mohawk Park (Including Oxley Nature Center and Trails)
  • Midland Valley Trail (1.4 miles)
  • Quik Trip Park
  • Willow Creek Park
  • Woodland View Park
March 1
Sunny and warm (mid 70's) day with modest winds.

UFST debriefing at local Command Center. In mid-morning Barbara White, John Slater and Dudley Hartel begin assessments along Creek Turnpike Trail. Creek Turnpike and Midland Valley trails completed Saturday afternoon.

Creek Turnpike UFST crew (Barbara White, John Slater and Dudley Hartel) has one final news interview.

February 29

Set up Storm Damage Protocol (SDP) segments in Edmond, OK. UFST crews work with Carrie Tomlinson, Edmond City Forester to implement a pre-storm assessment of debris.

UFST Crew Inventorying for Pre-storm SDP

Carrie Tomlinson, Mark Bays, Barbara White and Jim Clark discuss SDP inventory on Main St in Edmond. OK.

The city was stratified into 4 sections based on development type (age) and existing canopy. Within those strata, the street segments were identified as either residential, or commercial/institutional. Sampling was designed to include more samples along residential streets.

This detailed stratification was supported by the city's GIS layers that included tree canopy.

February 28

Trees along the remaining trails at the Oxley Nature Center are assessed.

Mohawk Park completed! Assessment of trees in remaining parks begins after lunch.

UFST crews have 3 news interviews (2 Tulsa and 1 statewide on OETA) on their work.

February 27

Trees along the trails at the Oxley Nature Center and in the Disk Golf Course (Frisbee) are assessed.

February 26

Tree assessment work continues in the remaining areas of Mohawk Park including Oxley Nature Center.

February 25

Orientation and training at Mohawk Park & Crawford Park.

February 24

Another group of UFST task members are scheduled to arrive in Tulsa late Sunday to begin a week of storm damage assessment. Barbara White (VA), Jim Clark (VA), John Slater (AR), and Rodney Kreiser (NC) are scheduled to join Mark Bays and Alanna McFarland with Oklahoma Forestry Service and Dudley Hartel with Urban Forestry South.

UFST Crews for February 24th

Barbara White, Jim Clark, Mark Bays, Rodney Kreiser, and John Slater at Crawford Park.

They will complete any remaining work in Mohawk Park and other Tulsa City parks this week.

Also during that week, Mark Bays and Dudley Hartel will meet with the City of Edmond, and Oklahoma City to determine the extent of assistance needed.

This Tulsa World report was front page news on Sunday, February 24th.

Ice Response: Week 3 Begins [February 17 - 23]

February 23

See Tulsa World story on local pilot program for debris removal.

February 22

KOTV NewsOn6 comes out to report on the project and our process.

February 20

Storm damage assessment work continued in Mohawk Park on Wednesday. Another ice storm threatening for tomorrow!

February 19

On Tuesday the crews began work in Mohawk Park and assessed over 500 trees along trails and in the heavily used park areas. These assessments included:

    • 217 tree removals
    • 254 trees with hangers
    • 75 trees with recommendations (e.g. hazard, restorative pruning) that are beyond FEMA debris standards

Oak Leaning (1)

Oak "leaner" under FEMA debris standards (i.e. roots still attached to soil).

Also on this day, Mark Bays, U&CF Coordinator in Oklahoma met with Nichols Hills Public Works Director, Charles Hooper and the FEMA Debris Management Team to review the UFST/Nichols Hills cost sheets. FEMA and the City signed off on the assessments crews did the previous week for standing debris. The city also received maps and detailed listings of the non-FEMA risk & restorative pruning recommendations.

Nichols Hills Parks Summary (11 parks)

    • Removals
      • 6"-12": 24 trees
      • 13"-24": 24 trees
      • 25"-36": 7 trees
      • 37"-48": 4 trees
      • >48":
    • Hangers: 126 trees
    • Removal volume: 545 cu yds
In Oklahoma, the UFST has developed a spreadsheet format to calculate the communities request for FEMA debris payments for their pilot program.
City Cost Sheet for FEMA Debris Negotiations

Example Cost Sheet: Unit costs are for eastern division of Oklahoma in FEMA Region VI.

February 18
Mohawk Crew

UFST crew for the week of Feb. 18 includes from left to right: Drew Arnn (VA), Alanna McFarland (OK), Gerald Crowell (VA), Chris Frey (NC), Eric Kuehler (USFS), and David Stone (VA).

On Monday, they went through a refresher course on the assessment procedure and changes needed to meet FEMA debris standards. Mike Perkins and Dave Zuconni (Tulsa Parks & Recreation) assisted with the local orientation for the crews. On Monday afternoon the crews practiced in Crawford Park and Hall Park which were nearby.

UFST Assessment (Stone Crew)
Drew Arnn and David Stone of "Super Team 2" calibrate their eyes and become familiar with the equipment during training at Hall Park.

FEMA Heartwood (1) Yound Tree Crown Damage

Left: Trunk heartwood exposed is a removal under FEMA debris standards regardless of % crown loss.

Right: Trees >6" diameter with >50% crown damage qualify as FEMA debris and removal.

February 17

UFST crews expected to arrive in Tulsa on Sunday afternoon, February 17 for work at Mohawk Park. Mohawk Park is the largest park in Tulsa County and one of the largest municipal parks (2,806 acres) in the United States.

Mohawk Park - Tulsa (600)

David Stone (VA), Drew Arnn (VA), Gerald Crowell (VA), and Chris Frey (NC) (Chris delayed in ATL by tornado alert & high winds!) arrived in Tulsa to begin a 7 day storm response assessment project in Mohawk Park. All had attended the urban Forest Strike team (UFST) training in Kinston, NC last August.

Ice Response: Week 2 Begins [February 11 - 16]

February 15, 2008

UFST crews meet at Starbucks "Command Center" facility in downtown Nichols Hills with Public Works Director, Charles Hooper, before completing tree assessments in Woods Park.

Icy Haze in Nichols Hills, Oklamoma

Early morning ice haze slowed tree assessments in Nichols Hills! Mark Bays, OK U&CF Coordinator.

UFST crews complete 5 parks in Nichols Hills at 11am on Friday.

Nichols Hills 'Command Center'

Crews debrief at Starbuck's "Command Center"! Dudley Hartel (UFS), Alanna McFarland (OK), Paul Revell (VA).

Dudley & Paul drive to Tulsa to meet with Mike Perkins and David Zuconni to estimate assessment needs in Mohawk Park for the February 17th crews arriving on Sunday.

February 14, 2008
  • UFST crews for week of February 24 - March 1 are requested
  • UFST meets with the FEMA Debris Team and city to review assessments in City of Bixby
    • Bixby Parks Summary (6 parks)
      • Removals
        • 6"-12": 43 trees
        • 13"-24": 68 trees
        • 25"-36": 20 trees
        • 37"-48":
        • >48": 1 tree
      • Hangers: 223 trees
      • Removal volume: 1,270 cu yds
      • Ground debris: 663 cu yds
  • FEMA "cost sheets" prepared for the City of Bixby and FEMA Debris Team
  • FEMA debris standards:
    • >50% crown damage is a removal; community paid for tree removal and cubic yards of debris generated
      • Five diameter classes
      • Diameter measured at 24" above root collar or grade
      • No stump payments
    • Broken limbs in crown greater than 2" are hangers
      • Must be attached
      • Measured at point of cut which is about 6" behind break
    • Limbs on ground estimated separately from standing trees and broken, attached limbs
      • UFST crews are not estimating ground debris; FEMA Debris teams do this when visiting with city & state representatives on a "walk through"
    • Debris cleanup payments:
      • Along streets plus 50' on each side of right-of-way (ROW)
      • Along trails and within striking distance of users
      • In developed (i.e. maintained landscape) areas only
  • Return to Oklahoma City area to work in Nichols Hills parks
    • Two crews complete about 60% of Nichols Hills parks (192 trees assessed)
February 13, 2008
  • FEMA cost sheets developed based on the "Tulsa Model"
  • Crews complete work on Bixby parks & recreation areas
    • Riverwalk
    • Bixhoma Lake
    • Bentley Park
  • Planning meeting with Tulsa Parks & Recreation director Maureen Turner for UFST crews from Feb 17 - 23
February 12, 2008
  • Paul Revell, U&CF Coordinator in Virginia and Dudley Hartel, Urban Forestry South assist Mark Bays & Alanna McFarland with City of Bixby park tree assessments to FEMA standards. Crews completed Washington Irving Park, Quail Creek Park and Charlie Young parks.

Woodward Park - Young Tree Damage

Extensive crown damage in Bixby parks.

  • In Washington Irving Park...
    • Storm removals (>50% crown damage) -- 107
    • Hanger removals (2" limbs still attached) -- 135
    • Other hazards to address (not debris or storm related) -- 45

Ice Response: Week 1 Begins [February 5 - 8]

February 8, 2008

In discussions with Tulsa Parks & Recreation this week and localFEMA Debris Management Teams, it is apparent that park tree inventorydata can play a critical role in disaster response beyond its intendedmanagement use. This "Tulsa Model" is based on an individual treeinventory with tree location determined with GPS. This inventory oflocation, species, and DBH provided sufficient information that thedata could be quickly updated by Parks & Recreation arborists toidentify ice damaged trees as either recommended removals, or forrestoration pruning.

Under a pilot program thatFEMA is testing for debris payments to communities, FEMA DebrisManagement Teams meet with a state emergency management debrisspecialist and community representatives prior to debris cleanup toestimate and agree on a the amount of debris to be removed and apayment for that work. Once the agreement is made, the communityreceives payment and can begin debris removal. Records must be kept,but not at the level of detail as currently required.

Under the current debris program, communities begin debris removaland document all work. Following debris cleanup, the communities thenapply to FEMA for reimbursement based on the documentation.

There appear to be several advantages to the pilot program for communities:

  • the amount of payment is known before work begins
  • documentation is not used to justify payment
  • communities have funds up front to contract or complete work in-house
  • communitiescan contract for debris removal (cutting trees & limbs) and at thesame time specify restoration pruning to ANSI 300 or communitystandards; previously, communities would have broken limbs cut based onFEMA standards and then have to contract or schedule restorationpruning as a separate project

After walking Veterans Park in Tulsa, the FEMA Debris ManagementTeam quickly determined that the data (park tree inventory) previouslycollected by Parks & Recreation could be used reliably to determinepayments for the "standing debris". Parks & Recreation staff thencreated individual cost sheets for each park they had previouslyinventoried based on their post-disaster damage assessment. BecauseFEMA estimates debris in two main categories which I term "standingdebris" and "ground debris", the FEMA Debris Management Team still hadto visit each park to estimate the ground debris component that Parks& Recreation staff had not captured in their assessments. However,the inventory data for park trees saved FEMA many man-hours ofassessment in Tulsa. Ground debris is composed of any woody debris thatis not attached to the remaining tree, or a tree that is entirely uprooted and laying on the ground. "Standing debris" is composed of trees that meet one of the following FEMA debris standards:

  • >50% crown damage (whole tree removal)
  • >30% lean (whole tree removal)
  • trunk heartwood exposed (whole tree removal)
  • FEMA hangers; broken limbs that remain attached to the tree (cut 6" behind break)

Broken limbs that remain in the crown but are not attached are notcounted as FEMA hangers. The debris payment agreement is based on thetree counts that meet these criteria (see February 19th example costsheet for Oklahoma unit costs).

Note that in this set of criteria, FEMA's focus is on debris cleanup not cleanup and the reduction of risk.

Because of the volume of work to be done, Tulsa Parks &Recreation requested assistance from Oklahoma Forestry services (MarkBays, U&CF Coordinator) to help assess trees in several parks wherethey lacked the initial inventory. UFST storm damage assessment crewswere mobilized to assist in those parks and other communities in theTulsa and Oklahoma City area (Bixby, Nichols Hills, Edmond, Muskogee).

Although work during this ice storm response has been limited topark trees, there is no reason that a street tree inventory could notbe used in the same manner.

Because of the FEMA pilot program, UFST assessment procedures weremodified to support the data that Tulsa needed for prepayment of debrisfunds. UFST crews made the following determinations:

  1. does tree qualify as FEMA removal
  2. does tree qualify as FEMA hanger
  3. what risk is associated with this tree if not FEMA debris in #1 and #2
    1. hazard removal
    2. hazard pruning
  4. for trees that are not FEMA debris and not identified as hazard, is restoration pruning recommended

In this list, items #1 and #2 are compatible with FEMA's mission toassist communities following disasters, while items #3 and #4 andnon-FEMA tasks that communities must address outside of the debrisprogram.

At the conclusion of the UFST assessments, a community will receive:

  1. a cost sheet suitable for FEMA discussions under the debris management pilot program
  2. a list of other trees considered as a risk to the public (removals and pruning)
  3. a list of additional trees that require restoration pruning

For post-disaster assessments, the UFST crews can make debris and risk assessments in one of two ways:

  1. when pre-storm inventories are not available, recordlocation (GPS), species and diameter for "standing debris" andcommunity risk or restoration (non-FEMA)
  2. when recentinventories are available, make the same assessments and merely updatethe post-disaster condition into FEMA and non-FEMA recommendations (noGPS needed)
February 7, 2008
  • Met with Midwest City arborist and GIS coordinator
  • Brief NC, VA and UFST/Region 8 on activities
  • City of Bixby and FEMA Debris Management Team request UFST assistance to evaluate park trees
  • Brief State Forester John Burwell on current status
  • FEMA denies 75/25 cost share request from OEM (Oklahoma Emergency Management) to support UFST arborists
  • UFST will proceed beginning the week of February 17th with NC & VA project funding

February 6, 2008

Urban Forest Strike Team (UFST) storm damage assessment specialists are mobilized to assist Oklahoma Forestry Services with urban tree damage assessments.

Ice Storm at Oklahoma University

December 10th photo from Oklahoma University Campus.

Mark Bays, Oklahoma U&CF Coordinator, Alanna McFarland, Oklahoma U&CF Partnership Coordinator, and Dudley Hartel, Urban Forestry South (Athens, Georgia) toured the Tulsa area to setup work for assessment crews (Urban Forest Strike Teams)...
  • Met with City of Tulsa City Horticulturalist (Maureen Turner) and FEMA Debris Management Team in Veterans Park
Tulsa Veterans - Debris Team

Tulsa Parks & Recreation, Oklahoma Emergency Management, FEMA Debris Team, and Oklahoma Forestry Services discuss debris estimation options in Veterans Park.

  • City of Tulsa and FEMA enter into a pilot program and will use parks inventory data as the basis for debris estimates
Tulsa Debris Pile - 1

The east end of one of the Tulsa ice storm debris chipping locations. Mark Bays provides scale.

  • Southern Region Urban Forest Strike team (UFST) will assist City of Tulsa with remaining 30 parks for post-disaster inventory

Tulsa Veterans - Damage

Typical crown damage to young trees.

Met with City of Bixby Parks Director and Tree Board at Washington Irving Park

Visited Oklahoma's state champion black walnut (Juglans nigra) in Bixby near Washington Irving Park.

Black Walnut - 1

When all else fails, hug a tree! Alanna McFarland & Mark Bays with Oklahoma Forestry Services.

Disaster, Oklahoma, Disaster response, Ice, UFST, FEMA
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