Debbie’s destructive wake

The All’Round Tree Services crews have been hard at work in the aftermath of Cyclone Debbie.

DebbieAll’Round sent crews to the hardest hit areas of Airlie Beach, Proserpine, Bowen and Mackay, along with several other arborist companies who pitched in to help. Work with downed trees is still underway in those zones, and with army crews having taken over the work in Mackay and Airlie Beach, All’Round’s crews have been freed up to shift their focus now to Hervey Bay, the Sunshine Coast, Caboolture and Brisbane’s northern suburbs.

But although the storm damage wreaked by Debbie may have been worse for manmade structures in the central Queensland coastal areas, All’Round owner-director Simon Maloney says the damage to and by trees has actually been worse closer to home in the south-east corner.

“Previous recent cyclones have tested the trees up north, so the remaining trees were actually pretty sturdy,” he said. But down here the trees couldn’t handle the elements so well. We’ve seen plenty of big trees lifted right out of the ground.”

“We had a tree come down right over a house in Taringa. The people inside were pretty shaken up, as you can imagine.”

His crews are working very hard at the moment just to keep up with the demand for their safety services. “The first call came at 1.30am on the night before the cyclone made landfall, and the phones haven’t stopped ringing yet. The girls in the office are just as run off their feet as the crews are.”

“The hardest part about that is that everyone considers their situation an emergency, so we have had to think hard about how to prioritise jobs. Trees on houses come first, then trees across driveways, especially for the elderly, so that medical and other services can access them.”

It makes for some tough decisions. “In some cases we have had to secure swinging trees with ropes until the highest priority jobs can be completed and we can get back to them. There are a few people having to rent accommodation for up to three weeks while they wait for necessary work to be done.”

Prevention is the key, Simon advises. But it can be hard to get people to place a proper priority on prevention, when it comes to trees. “People just think, well the insurance will cover it – but insurance can’t help if people die.”

“It would be better to see more people getting trees inspected. Some of the trees we have seen come down were always going to fail. Inspection is the key. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as they say.”

What is next with the clean up? “I am resting my crews over Easter. They’ve been working incredibly hard over long hours in difficult conditions. They need and deserve a rest. We’ll be back on the job Tuesday.”