Sawdust sprayed like confetti from atop a dead oak tree that Tim Langowski, in a 65-foot rear-mount bucket truck, methodically dismembered limb by limb.
The tree was in tight confines in a Northfield backyard, feet from an enclosed porch and a wooden fence.
As each limb was chain-sawed, a lowering device of ropes and pulleys plopped it gently onto the grass, where a crew of five from the Tree Man Tree Service in Somers Point sawed them into smaller logs and dispatched them into a wood chipper.
Preventive measures such as this have become more common in South Jersey after homeowners' experiences with a few hurricanes and the June 2012 derecho, said Tim Lenzsch, 52, a certified master arborist and owner of the Tree Man Tree Service.
Those storms prompted more homeowners to want the conditions of their trees evaluated.
Lenzsch estimated a 10 percent to 15 percent increase in calls from such customers.
"People are more aware of it, because there were so many trees that uprooted and broke in half, and large branches on trees that broke off and landed on something of value - their home, car, swimming pool, deck, driveway," he said.
Tree removal is part of the business, but so are maintenance and pruning, as well as assessments to determine whether trees are hazards.
"If your trees are cared for and properly pruned, they have a lot better chance of making it through without breaking or falling," he said.
Tchukki Anderson, a staff arborist at the New Hampshire-based Tree Care Industry Association, a trade group, said South Jersey is not alone in paying more attention to trees.
Major storms tend to have that effect, even among those who experienced no damage from the wind and rain itself.
"Once people have lived through something traumatic like a serious weather event like we've seen an increase of the last few years, I feel people who weren't personally touched by damage do have an understanding of … preventive tree care," she said.
Pruning dead branches is among the simplest measures to reduce potential damage, Anderson said.
Inner branches shaded out by the tree's size can die, or can act as a wind block, which can further stress a tree, she said.
Mickey Riggin is a state-certified arborist and owner of Arbor Care Resources in Atlantic City.
"After both storms, there was a large volume of work done for storm damage, and then there was a large volume of work done because of the increased fear factor, which was a good thing. Because of the damage that was done in the communities, a lot of residents realized they had to address some of the potential hazards with some of their trees, and most of the tree services saw an increase in volume of preventive tree care in taking down or pruning," Riggin said.
Risk is determined by the size of the tree, its proximity to a home or people, and its potential for failing, he said.
"What we try to do in the tree care industry is place a numeric value on that risk and do an assessment of the tree and let them know what the actual realistic risk of that tree is," he said. "Each homeowner has their own threshold on how much risk they're willing to take to have a large tree on their properties."
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