Removing dying trees from Sanibel after getting poisoned by Hurricane Ian’s storm

Reporter: Amy Galo Writer: Paul Dolan
Published: Updated:

We lost a lot of trees when saltwater rushed ashore during Hurricane Ian. Crews are out on Sanibel Island, marking and removing the dying vegetation.

“Killed these very large trees, killed a lot of trees,” Joel Caouette, a biologist for the City of Sanibel, said.

All of these have something in common; they’re poisonous.

“The level of and the amount of saltwater and the time that the saltwater stayed on the landscape is what has impacted these trees,” Caouette said.

Hurricane Ian’s storm surge left them sitting in saltwater for too long. Now thousands of trees are sick and dying, presenting a danger to the public.

So the city sent out arborists to mark and remove them.

“The tree has to be six inches wide at chest height, has to fall within the public right of way, has to possibly pose some sort of, you know, threat to falling over,” Caouette said

Trees killed after Hurricane Ian’s storm surge. CREDIT: WINK News

Also, any trees deemed not to survive the next five years need to go. This makes residents like Jamie Senkeleski happy.

“This is 200 times better than when I came back on the island on November 18,” Senkeleski said.

Once marked, the trees are flushed out. That means their stumps are cut, and the rest of the tree is chopped up. Then a claw truck comes through and removes the debris, moving another step closer to restoring Sanibel Island.

“The islands been beautiful. And I’m sure it will return to beautiful,” Sanibel resident Neil Johnson said.

Sanibel’s biologist told WINK News that the number of trees left for dead after Ian may be in the thousands. As for the city’s plan to replant, he said there isn’t one yet because the soil is still saturated with salt.

He encourages anyone looking to fix their landscape to hold off until summer when the island gets more rain.

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