BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)–Belle Lancaster was talking on the phone when she got a Halloween Night scare coming from an old tree in front of her West Side house, “I heard that horrible, horrible crack and that sound which I’ve heard several times before.”
High winds during the Thursday night storm snapped the crown off the old silver maple tree next to Lancaster’s Jersey Street home, and it crashed to the ground.
Belle was shocked when she reviewed the video from a security camera upstairs, showing a man and woman passing by, and the couple jumed out of the way just as the massive branches landed on the sidewalk.
“He pushed her and she ran, and they almost got killed. It was probably one second away from her having a horrible tragedy.”
But Lancaster said she warned city officials a week ago, when a lower branch broke off from the same old silver maple, and damaged a car parked underneath. She called the city’s 311 help line, Monday, but was told, “We looked at it and we think it was maybe that high a priority.”
There were other cases of tree damage despite prior warnings, such as a massive tree that was uprooted and slammed against a house on Weiss Street.
Property owner Steven Heather said his family had been calling City Hall for years until Mother Nature finally took out the tree.
“It would have been nice if the city had taken it down. We have been calling them for like the last three or four years. They come out every year and say, ‘no it’s okay, it’s okay.’ But they never chopped it down.”
City officials said they fielded more 300 calls last week, for uprooted or severely damaged trees and they are just catching up with them.
Andrew Rabb, Buffalo’s Deputy Commissioner of Public Works for Parks and Recreation said their priorities were, clearing downed trees from main thoroughfares first, then secondary streets, then residentials.
“The trees that are determined to be immediate removals will be added for removal after we get the stuff cleaned up off of houses or other things. If there is something that we see out there that we think requires immediate attention we will re-direct a crew now.”
Rabb could not comment on the individual cases, but he did say the city has hired a private tree service to help with the work load.
Belle Lancaster said the old damaged tree is now on the city’s list for removal, but it was also on that list following the surprise October 12, 2006 snow storm.
“I am lucky and these people were lucky. But we would not even be talking about this if this tree was taken care.”