USA Today column stresses solutions on urban trees and power outages

A column published in yesterday’s USA Today offers important insight in the ongoing discussion about urban trees, power and natural disasters.

Writer Laura Vanderkam reached out to the Foundation two weeks ago concerning solutions to the danger of urban trees falling on power lines during heavy storms. At that time, millions of households in the Washington, DC, region remained without power, weathering 100-degree days and uncertainty about when service would be restored.

Trees are an easy villain when they fall during a storm, but as Vanderkam points out, they also help utilities keep the lights on by lowering peak demand through the shading affect during particularly hot days.

Vanderkam told me she was writing a solutions-oriented column, and that’s precisely what she did. Citing the Arbor Day Foundation’s “Right Tree in the Right Place” principle, she notes that utilities are already seeing positive results from proactive pruning and a smart strategy for where to plant in the first place. According to her reporting:

After the hurricanes of 2004, the Orlando Utilities Commission in Florida did something similar, working with the city to plant tall trees away from lines and shorter trees under them. Result?

“Our reliability statistics have continued to climb,” says Wayne Zimmerman, manager of construction and maintenance. Costs are stable. “And we still have a beautiful tree canopy.”

That’s good for cash-strapped cities — and for anyone amazed, after the recent storm, how people lived through summers before AC.

That’s the kind of solution we can get behind, and the Foundation will continue to urge utilities to innovate and improve best practices in tree care. I wrote about the Foundation’s perspective in greater detail in a blog post last Tuesday.

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