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Posted on Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 4:08 p.m.

Ann Arbor officials announce plan for dealing with downed trees and branches

By Ryan J. Stanton

The storm that left Ann Arbor caked in more than 7 inches of heavy snow on Wednesday also tore the limbs off many neighborhood trees, and in some cases took trees down entirely.

Ann Arbor officials said mid-afternoon city crews still were responding to the trail of debris, as well as addressing downed power lines.

A more extensive tree debris collection plan is being developed to help address the need for disposing of broken branches, city officials said.

City officials said residents can store storm-damaged tree limbs on their lawn extension — but not in the street — for future city collection. The initial plan is to provide two citywide passes to collect tree branches from extensions, with the first pass to start the middle of next week.


A tree fell and damaged two vehicles parked in the 500 block of N. Division St. Heavy, wet snow blanketed the city causing many tree branches to collapse under the weight.

Melanie Maxwell I

If a resident is concerned about a city street or park tree or they need to report a tree branch down, they can contact the city's forestry department at 734-794-6364 or submit their request online via the Citizen Request System.

Residents also can keep informed of the tree branch-collection plan by subscribing to updates via the city's e-notification service. Go to, click on the red envelope icon, and select the "news" and "snow removal" topics from the subscription menu.

At least 10 trees came down overnight and city officials said those were removed by 7 a.m. Forestry crews were brought in overnight to address the volume of tree-related issues, giving priority to downed tree limbs obstructing traffic and plowing operations. Outside contractors also were deployed to assist with the city's tree-related issues.

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City officials said neighborhoods with old, mature trees appear to be hardest hit, especially in the Burns Park and Arbor Hills area, but downed limbs are being reported across the city.

Kerry Gray, the city's urban forestry and natural resource planner, said a crew of 13 people still was working on the tree issues as of Wednesday afternoon.

"The lack of wind has allowed the wet snow that fell last night to remain on tree branches, which is weighing them down," she said. "Most trees will be able to handle the weight of the snow, but some tree branches may fail due to the heavy weight."

Snow-covered tree branches were observed cracking off trees along neighborhood streets and falling onto sidewalks. Gray said the city hadn't received any reports of anyone being injured, though some vehicles parked on city streets were damaged by downed limbs.

Gray said on Wednesday afternoon the city was addressing the branches of city-maintained street and park trees that have fallen.

In order to clear debris and snow from the streets while temperatures stay above freezing, the city's field operations crews are anticipated to be on 24-hour schedules until the weekend.

City officials are thanking residents for their patience during clean-up efforts and apologizing in advance for any temporary noise that might arise from operating chain saws, wood chippers, and plows during the post-storm cleanup.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.


Mary Ferguson

Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 8:22 p.m.

After nearly five weeks, one online report, and two followup phone calls to the city forestry dept., a 30+ ft. long branch of a large oak tree in Mixtwood-Pomona Park is still dangling precariously near power lines. Now that the snow has melted and the neighborhood kids are starting to use the park again, I am concerned that someone could be injured.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 11:22 a.m.

"Ann Arbor officials announce plan for dealing with downed trees and branches" I was hoping, along with @uabchris to learn of a new plan to require DTE to put the electric utility's wires underground, so it is more reliable!

Lynn Liston

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 2:19 p.m.

Just to be fair about it, I live in a neighborhood that has underground lines and we were without power for nearly 12 hours Wednesday. If your downstream power source is an external wire near trees, or your mini-station blows up...there's no guarantee that underground lines will protect you from power loss.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 12:33 p.m.

Actually in new residential developments, underground utility location has been used for decades.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 4:47 a.m.

Why are there no comments about global warmaning?


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 4:48 a.m.

OK, warming


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 2:06 a.m.

A fix for downed trees and powerlines...underground utilities...


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 1:33 p.m.

Get out your checkbook!

Tom Joad

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 12:18 a.m.

The time to vigorously examine potential threats is in the late fall when the trees are bare and remove obstructing branches and potential tree falls. The electricity is out in our neighborhood because little forethought was given to protect electric lines come winter when snow and ice can bring down a branch or tree right on the power lines.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 12:03 a.m.

Has the city defined "tree branch" If I have a tree down how small do I have to cut the pieces ? Are they picking up tree trunks ? If the tree can be dragged to the extension will it be picked up, or do we have to chain saw it into pieces ?

laura wolf

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 1 p.m.

i saw city employees with a chipper yesterday feeding in downed limbs. so my guess is just drag the whole thing out.


Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 10:46 p.m.

So if you still haven't managed to dispose of that Xmas tree ...


Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 11 p.m.

Hey - it's worth a shot ;)

Ryan J. Stanton

Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 10:50 p.m.

I actually saw someone put out what looked to be a Christmas tree on their lawn extension today. We'll see if it gets picked up!

Ryan J. Stanton

Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 10:39 p.m.

Just a fair warning: I'm not sure if there are plans to ticket/tow (I'm checking), but the city put out an alert/request this afternoon that drivers voluntarily remove vehicles from neighborhood residential street parking until the weekend to allow the city to effectively plow streets and remove damaged tree branches from the rights-of-way. You might recall what the mayor said in a story of mine a couple months ago: From the story: He said there are emergency situations — such as heavy snowstorms — when the city needs to take action and have cars towed. "Seven or eight years ago, we came up with just a really extreme snowstorm over the Christmas break," he said. "Many people had left town and left their cars in the streets, and the city administrator declared a snow emergency in order to be able to clear the streets. "There were hundreds of cars towed," he added. "That's hopefully something we won't have to do again, but there can be emergencies where anything can be overridden and action has to be taken."


Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 9:30 p.m.

I thought for sure that since "art" funding is so important, that the city would annouce that the Citizens would be responsible for cleaning up all the downed trees and branches as well as taking the debris to compost center.


Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 9:50 p.m.

If it is on your property, it is not crazy to think that you are responsible for the disposal of the tree limbs, not the city, so I don't see the need for the snarkiness. We had a private service come out to take care of ours because they were our trees. Trees on the lawn extension are a different matter as the city plants those.


Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 9:22 p.m.

Harmon said residents are welcome to pick the wood up from the side of the road for personal use. "It's not uncommon for citizens to help themselves to the wood for firewood," he said. "We don't object to that" Jim Harmon, director of operations for the Washtenaw County Road Commission

Ryan J. Stanton

Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 10:52 p.m.

Thanks for sharing that. I'd have to believe the same applies within the city limits. I couldn't imagine the city getting mad at someone for picking up a couple of tree limbs on the side of the road, as long as they do so safely.

Linda Peck

Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 9:21 p.m.

Thank you, Ryan, for the update and news about pickup of branches, etc. This is very helpful to the community.

Ryan J. Stanton

Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 10:48 p.m.

You're welcome! It was helpful for me to learn about as well. There are lots of downed trees/limbs in my neighborhood. Both light and heavy branches caked in snow have been falling left and right onto the sidewalks and front yards. One branch even hit my car (no serious damage). A tree next to my house appears to be done for after collapsing under the weight of the snow, and a good-sized branch from another tree actually fell on the sidewalk right in front of me while I was walking my dog this morning (if he hadn't stopped to sniff we might have been clobbered!). I walked under another tree later and looked up to see a branch already broken off and tottering on another limb, ready to fall on someone (I told the city about it). In summary, it's crazy out there! Watch out if you're walking on the sidewalks!