Dead trees become costly hazard

GALVESTON, TX Rae Prys-Picard has noticed a big change in front of her historic home. Her tree lined street has gone from green to ghastly. The live oaks are no longer alive, causing a concern over more than aesthetics.

She said, "Of course the biggest concern is that it's going to fall on the house and do serious damage."

A similar assessment was made by tree experts, who say nine months after Hurricane Ike, trees that are still bare will not regenerate. It's a diagnosis given to at least 50 percent of the island's trees.

"This is the something like I've never seen before," said Ed Macie with the US Forest Service. "This is nothing short of an ecological disaster. I've seen trees all along the Gulf Coast that experienced salt intrusion and many of them that did not leaf out, in fact almost every one that didn't leaf out in the first growing season is gone today."

Most noticeable are the trees along Broadway. Many were originally planted after the 1900 storm to reforest the island.

Mickey Merritt with the Texas Forest Service said, "This was a large investment by the citizens of Galveston after the 1900 storm in planting all these trees. So, it's more than a hundred years later and we're faced with this situation again."

It's an investment the city of Galveston cannot afford. The cost of removal and replacement, estimated at more than $50 million, is expected to be funded by FEMA, and the clock is ticking.

City spokesperson Alicia Cahill said, "Now that we're in hurricane season in particular, we don't want to have another storm break limbs free, have limbs damage homes or our community."

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