A very happy Wednesday to you all! It’s the day The Nest breaks out the dusty album full of embarrassingly bad photos to tell you another boring story for Picture Day! Today we’re going to see what happens when a major utility company gets bent over and used like a corporate-owned rain forest by Mother Nature herself!
It occurred to me while I was out driving last week that there is something very odd about the scenery on one of the main streets near where I live that me and the rest of the residents have long taken for granted. While driving back from a squirrel shoot (Not THAT kind of shoot, you know me better than that) last Friday, I snapped a few quick pics from behind my dirty windshield of the ugly scene. Can you spot what stands out?
About 8 years ago, Ameren Electric, which serves the electricity needs of most of the metro St. Louis area, embarked on a major tree trimming venture that had one and only one goal… to prevent weather related power outages. They weren’t concerned with the aesthetic effects of what their arboreal butchering was going to leave. They could’ve cared less about how many squirrels they put out on the streets after they lost their nests. They probably didn’t even give any fucks if the lopsided trees they left behind toppled over and crushed your roof onto you as you slept. Any limb, branch or twig that was a threat to take down a power line was terminated with extreme prejudice… and with a major series of power lines running down this particular street, the extreme cutting produced some rather surreal looking trees…
The tree amputation team finally made it to my neighborhood in September 2012, and I did a post about it at the time. The photo at the top of today’s post is that cutting crew hard at work decimating my backyard oak tree and any other plant life that was foolish enough to grow near the power lines that run along my ditch. You shoulda seen what my front yard temporarily looked like when they got done de-vegetating everything along the way…
Now, you may be wondering why Ameren was going through all of this trouble and expense in the first place. Remember when Milli Vanilli lip synched about blaming it on the rain? Well… this massive tree trimming project could be blamed on the rain… and the wind… and the ice… and the fact that within a span of six months from July 2006 through January 2007, St. Louis got hit with the two biggest thunderstorms and two most massive ice storms we’ve seen in recent history. That first thunderstorm will hopefully be a future Picture Day topic itself if I can find the pics my Mom took that night while we were at the ballgame. But needless to say, a large portion of the population spent a very large amount of time in the blazing summer heat and the frigid winter cold without power due to those storms essentially shredding and re-shredding the power grid with each pass.
So the electric company was forced into drastic measures to ensure they could provide the vital service everyone paid very high prices for them to maintain. And you know what? In the three and a half years since the trees in my area were carved up into toothpicks, storm related power outages have become almost extinct! Short of a car accident or an adventurous kamikaze squirrel, The Nest never goes dark anymore. So the fucked up shrubbery is a small price to pay for the reliability of the electric service that helps keep this blog up and running for your enjoyment!
I’ll try not to waste any more precious electricity next week…
yes, that’s a small price I agree :o) I don’t like such power blackouts… I have no idea what I could do… except to push the on-button on my remote in vain :ol)
You would think a battery operated remote control would work in a power outage! I just don’t get it…
that’s a good question… it has batteries but it is dead while power blackout… crazy… what a rip off :o)
Pepco – the local power company – received a huge amount of criticism after the 2010 storms where everyone lost power. Since then, they went on a massive trim trimming campaign, and it seems to have helped.
In a perfect world, other power companies would look at these examples and be pre-emptive. In our world, I’m sure they’ll wait to spend the money until after they get embarrassed as well…
I find a certain irony in this, especially since I’m reading it at work….which for the last four years or so has been doing basically the same thing as these guys. We had trees literally in flames during the ice storm of ’13, and the utility my company is contracted to is actually pretty good about trimming stuff back.
And just for the record, as an arborist, its the worst job we have to do both from a public relations standpoint and tree health. Whack stuff back and it suckers out and becomes even more unsafe then the potential for thousands of volts moving down the tree already has..
Thanks for the expert commentary on this! Every time I see those trees down that street that literally look like they’ve been split in half vertically, I have to wonder if they aren’t a danger of falling over due to the imbalance, and I’d assume a dramatic shift in center of gravity…
That’s one problem over the course of years. Another is what happened to those trees you photoed out the windshield- at some point somebody whacked the tops off them because they were right under the lines and every cycle, that’s all that’s left to cut back to. Topping trees is actually one of the worst practices in the industry because of how the rot spreads- it lets it set in right into the heart of the tree and they rot from the inside out much faster.
So those trees, sucker out (which are bad cause they’re horribly weak because of how fast they grow- they’re basically a panic response) and every cycle, they whack the suckers out again….really, should just remove them, they’re only making more work for themselves.
Oh wait, there’s that common sense showing up again…..
I’m surprised they didn’t go shopping at army surplus and just agent orange the whole lot.
Had this been a military problem, I could totally see that happening! We’d never have another power interruption so the machines keeping us alive from our newly contracted cancer will continue running!
They really did a hack job on those poor trees! Some of them look more misshapen than our spruce tree that the county keeps hacking one side off of. At least they always leave the top where the squirrels live though. I can imagine there were some very confused and angry squirrels in your neighborhood during the great tree hacking of 2012!
I feel extremely fortunate to not have become an innocent casualty of the Great Squirrel Revolt of 2012! I’ll bet they occupied City Hall in response!
I live in a forest in a master planned community and somehow we manage to keep our trees, squirrels and power…poor little squirrels, possums, raccoons and whatever else lives in the trees.
It’s a shame the wildlife must suffer just so I can keep my blog up and running. Whoever thought above ground electric wires were such a great idea back in the day should have taken a few thousand volts to the head…
I guess the older communities didn’t know how to bury them properly? Who knows? Our squirrels just get run over or eaten by the bigger critters.
In New York — Long Island — where I lived before I started moving across oceans and stuff — they did the same “trimming” style. We hadn’t had many power outages before they ruined the trees and we had about the same number (almost none) afterward. Except that many of the trees really DID fall over.
Around here, they never trim anything. Probably we aren’t important enough to bother. The number of outages is exactly the same as it was in New York, or almost none. The ones we do have are almost always because the electric company is “upgrading” something and didn’t see fit to mention to us that the power will be off.
We get (or used to get) more frequent outages here because my area’s more prone to both thunderstorms and ice storms… which are the two most common causes of weather related power interruptions… so the clearing has definitely had a noticeable positive effect in that regard. Heck, sometimes just a small gust of wind or a stray lightning strike could leave whole neighborhoods dark. Those trees will get their revenge, though. It may take a few hundred years, but they will get even…
I bet those tree cutters imagine they are professionals?
Yes, just as professional as Hannibal Lecter!
there are gardeners and then there are horticultural warriors.
Nobody ever asks trees for consent before they just start amputating like crazy…
Exactly. It’s one thing if the tree has been damaged, but to mutilate it to prevent damage is a it like never learning to ride a bike because you’re concerned about the possibility of falling off.
I’ll bet it was cheaper to mutilate them than to get the power lines dug underground. B*ds.