Tree stumps being removed from tornado zone

Tornado debris
A tree stump remains on the boulevard of N. Queen Avenue in north Minneapolis, Minn. Tuesday, July 26, 2011.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

Minneapolis Park Board forestry crews started removing the remains of more than 1,500 boulevard trees knocked over by the May 22 tornado. Some residents in the tornado zone have wondered why it's taken so long to get the process started.

City officials say a lot of paperwork and planning was required before they could start pulling out tree stumps.

A Park Board crewman operates a large yellow front loader with what looks like a set of huge jaws. The jaws clamp around a stump estimated to weigh two or three tons. The stump has likely been in the ground for close to 100 years, and it's not coming peacefully. It takes a few tugs to get it out of the ground.

Park Board Superintendent Jayne Miller says before crews could start working, the Park Board had to inventory the damage by taking pictures of each individual stump.

"All that work had to be done and get approval for us with FEMA to be able to begin the stump removal," she said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse the city for stump removal and repairs to streets and sidewalks. Miller says the Park Board also had to make sure there were no utility lines nearby that could be entangled in the tree roots.

City Councilmember Don Samuels represents a section of north Minneapolis heavily damaged by the tornado. He says he's glad to see the process get moving.

"Frankly, I've been a little uncomfortable with the stumps still being there, because we had begun to really put a little pressure on homeowners to clean up their own debris," he said.

After the stumps are extracted, city crews will work on repairing the sidewalks damaged by the uprooted trees.

Park Board commissioner Jon Olson says the final step is to start replanting 3,000 new trees on public property. Olson says they will also make trees available free of cost to private property owners.

"We know a lot of homeowners lost multiple trees on their property. It's a great expense to replace those trees," he said. "We want to make sure the north side is being reforested as fast as possible, so we're going to provide that assistance with the private property as well."

Park officials expect all the stumps will be removed by the middle of next month.