Weeks after severe storms hit western Wisconsin, the Barron County Highway Department has completed its part of the storm damage cleanup process.
Since the storms hit on July 19, highway department crews have been working to clear the roads of fallen trees and debris.
Barron County Highway Commissioner, Mark Servi, says the roads are now ready for winter weather however he is concerned about “leaners,” which are unstable trees that lean and may fall down when covered in heavy snow or ice.
“Basically what happens is you’ve got the tree leaning toward the roadway and if you get a heavy snow or ice storm that comes through and adds weight to that tree you could have branches come down, the tree itself could come down because the root structures have been compromised and they rock in the wind,” Servi says.
While “leaners” present an issue every year, Servi says he anticipates more than usual because some trees have been loosened up after the July 19 storm. Many of the “leaners” also lean toward the roads.
“Trees tend to grow toward light so as you create the right-away and you create that area where the light is, the trees naturally grow at an angle out towards the light,” Servi explains.
Crews have been working to identify “leaners” throughout the cleanup process but Servi says because of the widespread damage left by the storm it is impossible to proactively catch them all.
However the debris is largely cleaned up so there will be a place to plow the snow when it falls.
“If someone were to go off the road into the ditch they are not going to hit debris,” Servi says.
Servi estimates the cleanup efforts cost the Highway Department about $125,000.