Boca Behind the Scenes

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Ep. 24 - Tree Maintenance for Hurricane Season

Ep. 24

In the episode, Boca Behind the scenes takes listeners through the necessary steps to prepare your trees and vegetation for hurricane season. Hear from Nora Fosman, the City's Senior Environmental Officer, on the proper way to prune your trees, how to properly maintain your trees throughout the year and how to prepare yourself, your property and your home for a potential storm. Listeners will also learn more about the Clean and Cut program, free additional bulk and vegetation pickup program provided by Sanitation Services in order to assist you in preparing for hurricane season through the month of June.


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Ep. 24 - Tree Maintenance for Hurricane Season Transcript


[Upbeat theme music plays]

Anne Marie: Hi everyone and welcome to Boca Behind the Scenes, a get to know you podcast where we talk to city staff and get details and information about new programs, events and projects that are taking place right here in your city. My name is Anne Marie Van Casteren, Public Relations Specialist with the City's Communications and Marketing Division and as always, I am happy to be here today.

[Upbeat theme music fades out]

Well everyone, it's almost June first, and you know what that means. Hurricane season is right around the corner. This is the perfect time to not only get yourself, your family and your pets prepared, but it's also a time to ensure that your properties are safe as well. It's the perfect opportunity to start cleaning out your garage and throwing away that pesky old patio furniture that keeps you from fitting your car in there. It's the perfect time to trim your trees and other vegetation on your property, especially those close to your homes and powerlines. Now you might be listening to me right now and rolling your eyes and thinking that you have plenty of time to get this all done, or you won't even bother, but before you brush me off completely, let me tell you a little story.

[Sound of wind from a hurricane]

In September 2017, one of the most powerful hurricanes ever recorded in the history of the Atlantic was projected to come barreling through the east coast of Florida. Packing a hundred and eighty-five mile an hour winds, Hurricane Irma, a category five storm, caused complete devastation and destruction to everything in its path. As the storm inched closer to home, Floridians kept a very close eye on the ever-changing hurricane track, hoping for the best but eventually preparing for the worst. Unfortunately, because of the uncertainty, many residents around the City of Boca Raton left hurricane preparation for the very last minute, which included cleaning out their garages and pruning their trees. Items such as mattresses, patio furniture, old appliances and mounds of palm fronds and vegetation piled up in front of people's homes waiting to be picked up and disposed of by the City of Boca Raton's Municipal Services Department. With the abundance of items that were thrown away, dump sites and transfer stations became inundated with bulk items and debris, eventually reached maximum capacity, and no longer accepted any additional waste. Municipal Services had no other choice but to suspend operations leaving hazardous materials vulnerable in hurricane force winds and residents dissatisfied and extremely frustrated. Fortunately, the city sustained less damage than anticipated, this time around. But the sanitation challenges that the city faced before the storm prompted them to create the Clean and Cut program, a free bulk and vegetation pickup program for all customers within the city. The city will be offering this program again in June after seeing such great participation within the community. Last June over four thousand tons of garbage and bulk items were collected and over one thousand tons of vegetation. This increased from June 2017's pickup by almost twenty percent, with close to an additional eight hundred tons of waste that was picked up from residents. Not only will Clean and Cut help the city's sanitation services run more smoothly before a storm, but it can also help prevent trees falling on powerlines and cutting out your power. One important aspect of getting prepared for this Clean and Cut program is to prune and trim your trees. I was able to speak to Nora Fosman, our City Senior Environmental Officer, and she provided me with some great information on how to prepare and protect your vegetation and property before hurricane season begins.

Anne Marie: I am here with Nora Fosman, our Senior Environmental Officer. Thank you so much for being on the show today. So just tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do as the Senior Environmental Officer for the city.

Nora: Well I've been with the city for 18 years. My degree is in environmental horticulture, and I do a lot of things but mainly I work in the development services department so when somebody comes in either to build a single family house or to demo a house or they want to come in for site plan approval or to do something on the beach, I review those plans and give them comments related to whether it's true preservation or environmentally sensitive land protection or protection of listed species; in a nut shell.

Anne Marie: Very cool, so to start off why should residents prune their trees? I know that we're getting ready for hurricane season, but I know this is something that you know we should be doing all year round, so why is it beneficial for residents to prune their trees?

Nora: Um trees are like children, if you want them to grow and be part of the community and be strong, you have to start training them early. And the secret to doing that is if you start early, the tree is much smaller that you don't need a lift truck or ladders, you don't need big pruning equipment and so once you get that structural framework and it's strong then just like your children, as the children get older you can allow them to do their own thing because you've got that that framework already built in. But all of that framework is there in place and the tree will be ready to withstand a storm.

Anne Marie: And what about if people you know weren't aware of that and they do have more mature trees on their property?

Nora: Yeah, absolutely. So, the best thing to do is when you hire tree company, when they come to your house, don't trust that they actually know what they're doing. So, you want to have in mind what exactly you want them to do before they touch your trees. So, we have a tremendous amount of resources that are available on the sustainability website about tree care and tree training. You can call me or my coworker Smith Amisial and we'll be happy to talk to you about you know proper tree care. But the main thing that you want to do is many of these tree companies want to lift the bottoms of the trees and they want to thin the canopies and that's exactly the opposite of what you want to do. On a mature tree, two thirds of the foliage should be in the lower half and I'm gonna say that again, because you rarely see that. So, two thirds of the foliage should be in the lower half of the tree and the reason for that is you want that low center of gravity. So, a tree that has all the weight in the top half, and I've seen it where the foliage is all in that top twenty five percent of the tree, it’s top heavy. So, it's ripe for either snapping or falling over.

Anne Marie: And I know that you had mentioned if you start early you don't have to prune every year but if you do you have more mature trees how often should you prune them?

Nora: Correct. So, the structural pruning you know, you can't, if you have a tree that's grown, and it's been growing on its own, it's never been touched for you know, ten or fifteen years, you can't correct everything all at once. So, you probably would have to go into a yearly pruning cycle, but I would have the tree company come in and address only those structural issues, nothing else. And so, after you get those structural issues taken care of, then you can go to the three to five-year cycle.

Anne Marie: So, what are, I guess, the proper ways to prune trees? Are there like specific steps that you should be following prior and during?

Nora: You want to look at the tree again as I said you should make the decision on what you want to do with the tree. So, there are basically five specific types of pruning and again if you go onto our website you'll see pictures and then you can look and go that's my tree and that's what I need to do to it.

Anne Marie: That makes it easy. And how much should you cut away from like your if you have power lines on your property or from your home? How far should trees be, or their branches be?

Nora: So that is determined by the National Electric Safety Code. So, anything that is within ten feet of a conductor, which is that closest wire, the power can either arc over into that that tree or that branch, and one of two things will happen; it'll either energize the tree; trees are filled with sap and water so they really make good conductors. So, the dangerous thing about the trees close to the power lines is you can be walking by and when that tree is energized the roots of the tree are energized and you wouldn't have any way of knowing that. The other thing that can happen is the tree can catch on fire and what happens is, you know, our fire department will come out and respond except it's not safe for them to enter your property until FPL has time to come out and cut the power. So, it's really, really an important thing to follow the right tree right place. They are working into the National Safety Code and it is for a good reason. The other thing that's not as dangerous but more annoying, especially with palm trees, is if you have palm trees that are near those power lines, palm trees can bend, the fronds straighten out, they slap that wire. When they slap the wire, it shorts it and then you take out the power to your neighborhood, so if you want to be a good neighbor or if you really don't want to lose power during the storm keep an eye on those trees. And then if you do have trees that you feel are growing too close to the power lines call FPL. The number is on your bill and alert them and they'll come out and take care of the situation.

Anne Marie: And are there any other tips you have, hurricane prepared, preparation-wise about you know, your foliage or the trees itself, any other vegetation and making sure that your property is safe and secure?

Nora: Well it you know, the best time to prune trees is actually in the winter for two reasons. The tree companies aren't as busy, so if you don't have a big demand you're going to get a better price and they're gonna be able to come out there quicker for you. The other thing is you don't have as much foliage on the tree during the winter and it's easier for them to work and it's less for them to take away, which they end up you know charging you for because I have to take it to the landfill. So the best time would be in the winter, but we're still early in the storm season now so people aren't really gearing into that so I would take a walk around the property look at those branches that are over hanging your house, look at branches that might be even if the branches aren't touching power lines now, keep in mind that those trees especially palm trees when the storms come they're going to bend those limbs are gonna straighten and again if you don't want to lose power this is the time to do it. So yeah walk around the house now and look at all those potential things and again if you have any questions feel free to give us a call.

Anne Marie: So, I hope all this information was a value to all of you, and it'll prompt you to get involved and participate in the Clean and Cut program. Be sure to get prepared now. Start by cleaning out your garages and storage areas and cutting and pruning your trees and vegetation. Flyers are going to be sent out to all residents serviced by the city sanitation department. They should be heading your mailboxes very soon if they haven't already and it'll provide you with information on pick up days. Or you can also visit the city's website.

[Upbeat theme music plays]

This information and so much more can be found by visiting the you www.myBoca.us/BePrepared. We also have a really great podcast set up for you where we're going to be talking to our communications manager, emergency manager and deputy city clerk about hurricane preparedness within the city, the emergency operations center, how to stay connected and all really great information on getting you prepared before hurricane season. So, thank you again so much for tuning in to Boca Behind the Scenes and don't forget - be prepared Boca!

[Upbeat theme music fades out]

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