Norfolk, Va. – The Virginia Department of Forestry, along with urban forestry experts from North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, were in Hampton Roads this week to assess and identify trees that pose a risk to public health and safety during a mock hurricane drill.
The experts, which made up the Urban Forestry Strike Team, assessed trees in the cities of Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and Portsmouth. During the practice drill, team members carefully inspected trees that were “damaged or destroyed” during the mock hurricane.
“There are incidents almost every day across the country where trees that have residual risk fall and injure somebody. That’s even happened here locally. And we want to do as much as we can to mitigate that risk [and] to identify those hazards so that the local officials can take care of those hazards,” said Paul Revell, Urban and Community Forestry Coordinator for the Virginia Department of Forestry.
Strike Team members took measurements of the trees and used backpacks with GPS units to track, map, and record the exact location of the trees they assessed.
“After Hurricane Isabel a number of years ago, the southern forestry agencies responded very well in rural settings. But unfortunately, we did not have a good urban forestry response. We didn’t have this capability. And there was a tremendous amount of tree damage here in Tidewater that we could’ve helped in terms of assessment,” said Revell.
No trees were cut down during this three day exercise. Instead, Strike Team members will relay the information they discovered about certain trees to our local city officials so they can come up with ways to help maintain our urban forests before a storm moves in, restore it after the storm moves out, and most importantly, keep people safe from injury.
The practice training drill was funded by the U.S. Forest Service.