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After the storm

Over one month in, and the debris is inescapable

A tree on the town common in Scituate awaits removal.

Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

A tree on the town common in Scituate awaits removal.

Before the latest storm Thursday and Friday brought a new mantle of white, melting snow from the February blizzard had revealed roadsides dotted with broken trees, mostly softwood evergreens, chewed up and spit out in a trail of coniferous debris residents say may not be cleaned up until summer.

Late last week, as residents on the South Shore worried again about coastal flooding and erosion from nature’s latest blast, others south of Boston, both on the shore and inland, were working on the hefty task of cleaning up trees downed last month. Coastal residents also faced tempest-tossed rocks and sand. For some, the combination was daunting.

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“It’s really just unbelievable. People are getting tired,” said Rocco Longo, town administrator in Marshfield, a coastal community that tallied about $3 million in public infrastructure damage and storm-related expenses as of March 4, including damage to the jetty at Green Harbor and silting-in of the harbor channel.

Arborist Lucas Carr, who did tree work in Marshfield, said the February storm did heavy damage in Duxbury, Hanover, Hingham, Pembroke, Plymouth, and Scituate. “Marshfield got destroyed,” he said.

In Middleborough, trees fell or dropped limbs on several front lawns along South Main Street, in the center of town. All that seemed to be left at one home was a pile of greens — the small branches left behind when a tree was hauled away. Another home lost the top of one trunk on a double-trunked tree, and still another had a limb fall on a shed.

Outside the downtown, in the vicinity of a wooded residential property on Wood Street, a stretch of roadside was littered with cut-up trees where storm-damaged telephone poles had been replaced. Homeowner Eileen Keaffer picked up branches near her house, which is set back from the road.

“We’re tackling the stuff that’s close to the house now,” she said.

But at the street, much more work lay ahead, both for her own family and for neighbors. Professional tree work is expensive, she said. “We’re going to do as much as we can before we call somebody.”

Aside from the work and cost, homeowners said they were sorry to see trees go.

“I’m always disappointed when a tree comes down, because we purposely bought this piece of land because of the trees,” Keaffer said.

Middleborough residents organized via a posting on a community Facebook page, Middleboro Helping Middleboro, to clean up the historic Nemasket Hill Cemetery.

Scituate lost a tree that was uprooted on the town common, according to Al Elliott, a captain with the Fire Department. He said the Department of Public Works was doing a good job cleaning up debris on public property, but private property also sustained significant damage, with softwood trees snapped, mailboxes toppled, and rocks washed over waterfront roads.

One private road had been littered with beach stones since November, Elliott said. “We’ve had a few bad coastal events, even previous to this last one.”

Second Parish in Hingham, a Unitarian Universalist church, got off relatively painlessly, considering a tree fell on its bell tower. The Rev. Paul Sprecher said the tree damaged one railing on the tower, and did nothing to the roof or windows. Plus, he said, the tree was on town property, so the town removed it at no cost.

“We’re happy, and basically it’s all cleaned up, except for that little repair on the bell tower,” he said.

In Hingham as a whole, though, progress is slow, according to Randy Sylvester, superintendent of public works.

“It’s going to take a while to clean this up, probably well into the summer,” he said.

Public works crews started with the dangerous spots and then began working their way through town, one section at a time, he said. The crews are picking up branches and trees on town land, chipping what they can, and transporting brush and chips to the transfer station. Before long, the town will need a grinder at the station to handle the brush, Sylvester said.

Progress was similar in Marshfield, where public works superintendent Thomas Reynolds said the cleanup could last into May.

“We’re plugging away. There’s quite a bit of debris still in the streets,” he said.

The town has received calls from homeowners looking for help with cleanup, he said. Right now, homeowners are responsible for their own property, but if the town receives federal disaster aid, the funds could enable the town to do work on private property, according to Reynolds.

In the meantime, crews spent part of last week trying to close openings the storm made in the Marshfield sea walls.

Carr, owner of Norwood and Marshfield-based Pathfinder Tree Service, said the wait for private tree work can range from a week to a month, depending partly on whether a company has other jobs scheduled nearby.

“This is just one of those spikes,” he said of the sudden flood of work. Last Tuesday he removed a tree resting on a house in Scituate, and there were plenty more trees still on homes in the region, he said.

Carr said tree companies’ prices are likely to be higher for a while, perhaps until midsummer, or possibly even the end of the year.

He advised homeowners to ask for a tree company’s insurance certificate and follow up with the company’s insurance agent to make sure the insurance is valid. Homeowners who are filing their own insurance claims should look for a tree service accustomed to dealing with claims, he said.

Jennette Barnes can be reached at jennettebarnes@yahoo.com.
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