Hancock County Officials Want To Remove Dangerous Trees

Katrina left a lot of pine trees standing, but brown and lifeless.

"Eighty to 100 percent of the trees were inundated with storm surge waters from Katrina as much as 12 miles inland and that has posed some serious threats to our public safety," Hancock County Extension Service Director Gwen Smith said.

The dead trees are still standing because they don't meet the guidelines for removal. Only trees with broken tops or those leaning at a 30 degree angle can be removed by U.S. Army Corps of Engineer debris crews.

County Supervisor David Yarborough says that's left many properties in danger.

"Last weekend we had substantial wind. I know of several cases where trees fell and just missed FEMA trailers. Something has to be done, we need help with this."

Even if the county took down the dead trees, FEMA paid crews won't haul them away.

"If this would have been done in the ROE process, people wouldn't have this financial burden looking them in the eyes," Yarborough said.

Pine beetles, termites and the fire hazard the dead trees pose are also big concerns.

"Just the pure volume that we have that are dead and brittle, they will easily catch fire. And it's very difficult to stop a fire once it starts," Smith said.

To reduce the risk and expense, Mississippi State's Extension Service is bringing arborists to help assess the damage and danger.

"They will actually be walking the streets, they will GPS individual trees and they will do an assessment first and foremost to determine the affects on public safety. In other words they're going to deal with the trees that are closest to the roads, closest to the right of way," Smith said.

The next step will be getting federal dollars and resources to get rid of the hazardous trees. Extension Service leaders say the damage tree risk assessment should be finished within two to three months.

by Al Showers