Storm cleanup continues in Waukesha

Todd Ponath
A tree at a home on Misty Lane in Waukesha had a large tree blown over in their front yard. Powerful storms with strong winds knocked trees and power lines down throughout the area last week.
Published on: 7/8/2014

It's been more than a week since a massive storm ripped through Waukesha and the county. Thousands were without power and streets were littered with fallen trees.

The cleanup continues.

Mayor Shawn Reilly said that in the days after the storm, five crews (17 city employees) worked to clear the streets and sidewalks, while the Forestry Department had three three-man crews working 12-hour days.

The focus for these teams have been on Districts 1 and 3 on the city's northeast side. Department of Public Works Director Fred Abadi said those areas had the most damage.

"We're just working on getting the city property cleaned and sidewalks open, as there are still trees hanging in streets," said Steve Dziekan, city garage street supervisor.

While many aldermen at last week's common council meeting asked Abadi what the city would do to help residents in the cleanup process, the DPW director said there was not a plan for a citywide brush pick up for trees on people's property.

"Our resources are limited," Dziekan added late last week. "It's a challenge, no doubt. It was not a planned event, and everything was twisted and uprooted. It's a real challenge working around utilities (as crews) were trying to get power restored."

Abadi said residents have had the opportunity to bring their tree debris to the city's Dropoff Center, 750 Sentry Drive, for free. The city opened the center an extra day last week. The center will be open on Thursday for residents to continue to drop off their tree debris.

"It's been pretty busy," Dziekan said. "I was down there (last week), and it was hectic."

In an email to members of the common council and city staff last Friday, Reilly said the cleanup in Districts 1 and 3 would continue this week.

"Many of the downed trees that were impeding traffic have now been removed," said Reilly, who has kept in contact with Parks and Forestry Operations Manager/City Forester Peter Traczek and Abadi on the cleanup. "There is still significant work that needs to be done, however."

Once the cleanup is finished in those areas, Reilly said, other areas of the city will be tended to. Reilly said he expects it will take another week or two to clean up the rest of the city.

Abadi encourages residents to call the city if there is a fallen city-owned tree, but if it is a private tree on a resident's own property residents will have to find someone, other than the city, to pick up the debris or bring it to the Dropoff Center.

Reilly said the city's Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department "is a little overwhelmed trying to clean up fallen trees on roadways and city property."

"Since the city's responsibility of taking care of street trees and clearing the sidewalks and streets is unlikely to be completed for another two weeks, no brush pickup is presently being scheduled," said Reilly, who added that he understands many people don't have the necessary equipment to load and bring tree debris to the Dropoff Center and are "frustrated" by the city not assisting in picking up their tree debris.

Reilly said Traczek told him that the storm created more tree damage than any other storm during the city forester's 13 years in the city.

"My impression is that the only times I saw more damage (in Waukesha) was during the May snowstorm in (the early 1990s) and an ice storm when I was still in my teens," Reilly said.

Reilly and City Administrator Ed Henschel were scheduled to have a management review of the cleanup status earlier this week.