A Worthington Parks and Recreation Department employee recently gave back to a storm-ravaged community by volunteering with the Ohio Urban Forest Strike Team.
Parks and recreation supervisor Shawn Daugherty completed a deployment Sept. 4 and 5 to help assess tree damage in Dayton after destructive tornadoes blew through that area of western Ohio on May 27, almost five months ago.
At least eight tornadoes were confirmed May 27 and 28 in the state, according to a May 28 story by Beth Burger and Ben Deeter in The Columbus Dispatch.
Celina, which is in Mercer County, and Dayton received the most damage, according to the story. The National Weather Service said the storm that hit Celina had wind speeds ranging from 136 to 145 mph.
Storm surveys by the National Weather Service confirmed at least three tornadoes with wind speeds of 140 mph hit Beavercreek and Trotwood, both near Dayton, according to the story. One death of an 82-year-old man was reported in Celina.
The widespread damage, which included at least 40 homes damaged or destroyed in Celina alone, caused Gov. Mike DeWine to declare a state of emergency in Greene, Mercer and Montgomery counties, according to the story.
When he arrived in Dayton in September, Daugherty said, he couldn’t believe the high level of damage that had occurred during those May storms.
“The footage on TV and stuff just didn’t do it justice,” he said.
Daugherty said the storms took a heavy toll on the tree population.
“Hopefully, they’ll be OK if they can get some trees planted,” he said.
Daugherty said the Ohio Urban Forest Strike Team’s job after a disaster is to make educated decisions on which trees are salvageable and which ones are not.
“A lot of that goes a long way in making things safe for the public,” he said.
Daugherty said it takes many people to assess damage, and he was impressed with the way the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which runs the program in Ohio, organized the deployment.
Tyler Stevenson, urban forestry program manager for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, said 20 volunteers from around Ohio were deployed, and they were divided into groups to help assess the damage.
He said the entire Ohio team includes 30 volunteers.
Worthington spokesperson Anne Brown said the nationwide Urban Forest Strike Team program was created a dozen years ago to provide systematic mobilization, deployment, organization and management of state-forestry agency personnel.
By working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, state forestry agencies, local emergency-management groups and communities, the Urban Forest Strike Teams assess, document and provide recommendations to help mitigate the effects of disasters to a community’s tree canopy, she said.
Stevenson said all members must be certified arborists and complete “task-specialist training” in order to participate. All are volunteers, he said.
Stevenson also said all team leaders must be qualified for tree-risk assessment.
He said not every state is required to have teams, but many states have task specialists who could be called upon to respond to disasters when requested.
Brown said team trainings began in 2007, and strike teams have been activated more than 11 times. Team members across the nation have been mobilized in response to such disasters as hurricanes Gustav, Ike, Irene and Matthew, ice storms in Arkansas, Kentucky and Oklahoma and tornadoes in Georgia and Missouri, she said.
Daugherty said the Ohio group is much newer compared to other teams in the country.
He said the state team, which was organized about two years ago, had never been deployed before.
“I’ll admit I didn’t think we would be using it much,” he said.
Daugherty said when the opportunity to volunteer for the team became available a few years ago, “it just kind of appealed to me.”
He said he has been a certified arborist for 25 years and was used to an urban environment.
Daugherty said the city of Dayton appreciated the work accomplished over the two-day period in September.
“It’s kind of nice to see communities like that to come together with others to help those in need,” he said.