Expert crews, good Samaritans bring relief from storm damage
It would have been difficult to find a residential neighborhood in Fort Dodge where the sound of chain saws, equipment backup alarms and falling branches couldn’t be heard loud, clear and nearby Thursday.
Cleanup after Tuesday night’s storm continues.
Janine Witte, who lives in the 500 block of South 13th Street, had a single 80-foot hackberry tree fall on her home, her neighbor’s home, and the power and cable lines to both.
It left a dilemma.
She said MidAmerican Energy wouldn’t fix the power line because there was a tree on it and it’s also resting on the homes.
The tree trimmers said they wouldn’t cut the tree up because it’s on a power line.
“I’ve been trying to get somebody to come,” she said.
She finally contacted the city of Fort Dodge Parks, Recreation and Forestry Director Lori Branderhorst.
Branderhorst sent her to Will Estlund, owner of Estlund Construction Services in Fort Dodge, who took on the difficult job of removing the tree, bit by bit, without causing any further damage to the homes or the power line.
He was up to the challenge.
“We can’t allow any damage,” he said.
It took a truck with a large grapple hook, ropes in strategic places and years of expertise.
“They keep talking about it turning,” Witte said. “Plus, they can’t get on the roof.”
Witte had been without power since the Tuesday night storm knocked it out. That was long enough that food loss due to warm temperatures can become a problem.
“I took some to my daughter’s house,” she said. “I haven’t looked in the freezer yet.”
As Witte watched Estlund’s crew cut up the tree, her neighbor, Jim Richman, watched with her.
He had some of his own trees down too.
“There’s two trees down in the back yard,” he said. “They’re across the garden and they smashed a shed.”
He, too, will be hiring someone to clean it up.
“We’re going to have to have a contractor,” he said. “Some of the limbs are 25 feet in the air.”
A previous investment is paying dividends for him.
“We have a generator,” he said. “I bought it last year. We have three deep freezes.”
The storm also brought out some of the best in people, people helping people with no expectations.
One of them came by Witte’s home.
“I had a good Samaritan,” Witte said. “She took two loads of my brush and gave me a sandwich. Thank God for people like that. She said, ‘I’m just going around helping people.’ I wish I knew her name.”
Scott Sanders, of Des Moines, came up to help clean up a large tree limb that fell on his mother’s home in the 2000 block of Third Avenue South.
“The roof took a hit. The porch took a hit then it laid down across the yard.” he said.
Sanders cut up the limb and stacked the wood neatly at the curb. Part way through the job, his chain saw quit working and he had to finish with a smaller version designed for pruning.
It took time.
“We’ve been at it six or seven hours,” he said. “I still have a lot more to do in the back.”
His mom, Pat Sanders, missed most of the initial excitement.
“I slept through the whole darn thing,” she said. “I didn’t hear this come down.”
Her reaction to looking out her window in the morning?
“I couldn’t believe it,” she said.
While her normal morning view of her street was now blocked by a big tree limb, she was grateful, because it could have been much worse.
“Look at all it spared,” she said. “I was so lucky. It could have killed me.”
Heather and Anthony Baedke spent a good part of Thursday removing their belongings from their home on North 23rd Street. Two large trees fell on it Tuesday night.
“We found another limb on the wall,” she said. “It’s going to be interesting when they get this off.”
She said they’re staying with family. In addition, friends, neighbors and softball teammates have helped them out.
“We’re OK,” she said.
She’s even able to laugh about it, a little.
“I’ve had people call me,” she said. “I heard you have a tree house, they asked.”
Her son, Leif Baedke, is even planning on turning the whole event into words. He’s going to use it as a subject for a creative writing class.
After several hours of work, Estlund cut the last large limb away from the tree at Witte’s home.
One of his crew, William Ebner, of Fort Dodge, had been up on the porch helping with some of the tricky cutting.
“This wasn’t an easy one,” Ebner said.
The storm has kept them busy.
“Yesterday we did five trees in houses,” he said. “That’s all we did.”
Estlund said that might very well remain the case.
“There will be storm damage work for awhile.” Estlund said.
After it was all over Thursday, with the smell of chain saw exhaust mixing with wood sap, Estlund walked up to Witte with a big smile on his face.
“You are awesome,” she said.
“Were you nervous?” he asked.
“No,” she replied. “He’s good.”
• The Webster County Health Department is seeking volunteers to assist with tree debris cleanup. Contact Trin Lewis, 573-2222.
• The Webster County Health Department is coordinating a food package of 1 percent milk, a dozen eggs and lunch meat for disaster recovery. Call 573-4107 if you need food assistance.