As Hurricane Irene moved out, work crews from Davey Tree moved it — on Sunday starting what is likely to be a long week of cleaning up storm damage.
Kevin Mullinary, district manager for Davey Tree's Baltimore office, said his phone hadn't stopped ringing since midnight in the wake of Hurricane Irene, and he doesn't anticipate it to stop any time soon.
"I anticipate it going for a couple days like this," he said. "We're trying to sort through the highest priority work."
Crews couldn't go out into the field until the wind subsided, but they spent the morning staging equipment and sorting through the calls from customers who needed work.
Then, they hit the streets.
"Between the rain and the wind, it's anything from limbs on the ground to trees on houses," Mullinary said.
Trees and limbs that are on houses, blocking driveways, or otherwise causing immediate inconvenience or danger were the top priority.
Crews left the office on Falls Road near Lake Avenue around 9 a.m., with two trucks — a bucket truck and a crane — headed for Goucher College, where downed trees were reported.
The school was scheduled to begin classes Aug. 29.
"Goucher has a large student population coming in Monday, so we thought that was a high priority," Mullinary said.
As crews drove through the wooded campus on their way to the main work site — a tree that was uprooted and fell onto Froelich Hall, a three-story dorm building — the damage was apparent.
Fallen limbs littered the fields surrounding the school's main loop, with dozens of trees uprooted as well. But with a backlog of storm damage building up, those trees weren't a priority.
Instead, foreman Mark Bostic, together with Bryan Gill and Paul Herb, had the task of removing the fallen tree that leaned against Froelich Hall.
The same conditions that caused the damage — saturated ground and strong gusts of wind — made work difficult for Bostic's crew.
Their initial plan was to back the bucket truck and chipper up to the base of the tree and chip brush as Bostic cut it.
But the rain-soaked ground was too soft for the truck to get in. Instead, the crew had to drop the chipper and pull the bucket truck up a sidewalk to get it close to the base of the tree.
Herb pulled the crane right beside the tree, allowing them to secure the tree and keep it steady. As Bostic pieced out the limbs of the tree to allow him to safely get it off the building, the weight of the tree against the building changed, making it dangerous for him up in the bucket as well.
"It's going to be sketchy," Bostic said.
With heavy winds still blowing, Bostic hoped he wouldn't have to get the bucket too high.
In addition to the elements, Bostic and his crew also had to deal with curious students.
The tree, which leaned against the building above the most commonly used exit to Froelich Hall, provided what freshman Katherine Mowrer called "an adventure" for students trying to leave the building.
"It's fun leaving the building," Mowrer said.
Bostic, who understood the instability of the tree, told students to use another exit next time. He eventually set up cones surrounding the zone, and Herb tried to set up caution tape to keep students at a safe distance.
Mowrer and her roommate, Gabrielle Spear, said that they didn't hear the tree fall on the building, and estimated that it happened some time after midnight, when the pair returned from a dance across campus.
Alex Feith, who lived across the hall, said the tree hadn't fallen when he went out to check on his car around 1:30 a.m.
He did, however, say he get struck by a falling branch for his troubles — though that wasn't likely to get him out of the first day of class.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun