Dallas-Fort Worth storm damage estimated at $25 million, plus the trees

The snowstorm that hit the Metroplex last week caused an estimated $25 million in damage to residences and businesses, but the loss in trees may never be known.

"There's going to be a tremendous amount of damage," said Barney Lipscomb, spokesman for the Botanical Research Institute of Texas in Fort Worth. "A lot of trees are going to be lost."

One Colleyville woman described her back yard of once-towering trees as a "war zone." In Hurst, a huge cedar was pinned against a large oak as both trees hovered dangerously over a home.

Broad-leaved trees -- primarily giant oaks -- are the ones taking the biggest hits from the storm, which dumped 12.5 inches of snow on the region Thursday and Friday.

The broad-leaved trees were susceptible to the wet, heavy snow because of their huge branches reaching out two dozen feet or more, Lipscomb said. The evergreens, including pines, survived the storm mostly untouched because of their conelike shapes.

"And this is far from over," said Geoff Steiner of Steiner Saw Service in North Richland Hills. "There's just so much going on and so much collateral damage. Unlike a tornado that touches down here or there, this has affected every county and town within a snowfall area."

Insurance claims can be made only for structures or vehicles damaged by fallen trees or heavy snow. Trees that snapped and hit nothing are not taken into account in damage estimates.

But judging by the branches littering yards and streets across the region, the number of damaged trees will easily reach into the thousands.

As a result, landfills have been hot spots of activity. As tree services step up, chipping operators, homeowners and others are seeking a place to drop off their brush. The result: a shortage of open disposal sites and long lines.

Jeff Latour hauled a truckload of brush to the Arlington landfill to encounter dozens of others -- tree trimmers, business owners, homeowners -- doing the same thing.

While most waited up to two hours, he was waved to the front of the line by a worker at the landfill on the Arlington-Euless border.

"I tip her like $20 every time I'm out there," he said.

Latour said he spent part of his morning at homes that had trees blocking driveways.

"My phone's been ringing off the hook with work," he said.

Insurance claims

Insurance carriers, meanwhile, are being loaded up with claims of damage to homes, personal property and businesses by snow that caused roofs to collapse and by falling trees.

State Farm customers in North Texas had filed 1,321 claims by Monday morning. Over the weekend, the insurer received more than 500 claims, said Evelyn Nishino, spokeswoman for State Farm Insurance in Dallas.

"It's getting busier and busier," Nishino said. "We tell customers to make sure they keep their receipts if they do any repair things."

At Allstate Insurance, Texas officials said that claims were on the rise but that figures would not be released for a few more weeks. To handle the sharp spike in claims, the insurance carrier brought in more workers, a spokeswoman said.

Even so, insurance carriers are not expecting catastrophic damage claims, said Mark Hanna, spokesman for the Austin-based Insurance Council of Texas, which represents 500 insurance companies that sell homeowners and auto policies in the state.

In Dallas and Tarrant counties, damage estimates have reached $25 million, mostly to homes and businesses, Hanna said. He said more than 4,000 claims have been filed.

By comparison, the storms that swept across the Metroplex in April 2007 -- and spawned a tornado in Haltom City -- also caused $25 million in damage.

And the hailstorm that hit Fort Worth in 1995 caused $1.1 billion in damage, he said.

But that doesn't mean the recent snowstorm wasn't significant.

"It did dump a lot of snow on Tarrant County," he said. "But it didn't warrant the insured losses that it needed to really represent some catastrophic situation like some hailstorms and severe thunderstorms."

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