Homeowners, tree care pros clean up after tornado with advice to fortify trees for storm season

RAYTOWN, Mo. -- When bad weather hits, anything can turn into mother nature's weapon, especially trees.

Homeowners all around the Kansas City metro spent their Thursday cleaning up trees, some of which fell right on their homes during Wednesday's weather event.

Saws are in high demand after an EF-1 tornado touched down near Belton, Missouri, sending stormy weather and high winds measuring as fast as 98 mph across the east side of the metro.

Fallen trees are everywhere around Raytown and south Kansas City. People wielding saws included the vocational and the volunteers, as many Oaks, Walnuts and Cottonwoods were reduced to kindling.

One Raytown home, situated near Lakeview and Harvard streets, was pummeled by a huge Cottonwood tree, which neighbors estimated to be as old as 100 years. The tree's roots were taller than a 6-foot-tall man, and it turned a nice lakeside home to sawdust.

Clean-up efforts also included one tree expert, who explained how homeowners can ensure their trees are stronger, thereby giving them a chance to survive these storms.

Steve Strauss, who owns Classic Tree Care, has worked with trees for more than 15 years. Strauss and his crew of six workers sawed and sweated, trying to remove the big tree from the house's flattened shell of glass and wood.

"We stay prepared for the storms that spring usually brings," Strauss told FOX4 on Thursday afternoon. "We don't see a whole lot with devastation this bad. When I see something like this, I feel bad for the homeowner, because even though the insurance is going to pay for it, it's not a pleasant experience."

If you drive south for 15 minutes to south Kansas City, you'll find neighbors like Craig Sparks and Enrique San Juan who are helping older neighbors who can't remove fallen trees from their own roofs and yards.

"It was crazy," said Sparks, a retired boilermaker. "There were trees falling out of every damn place. It sounded like a war zone."

San Juan's neighbors are benefiting from their friend's line of work. He told FOX4 he works as a tree care tech, and he used a variety of saws and extended cutters to remove an Oak tree branch from a low-hanging telephone line.

"It looks like we're walking around and seeing the damage," San Juan said. "There may come more wind later, and that cable may come down."

"You gotta live here a while. You gotta get along. If you don't know your neighbors, you don't know. Simple as that," Sparks, a Vietnam combat veteran, explained. "It won't be cleaned up for a week."

Strauss said some trees can be strengthened for storm season if homeowners actively care for their trees and have them regularly examined by an arborist or tree care professional. Strauss said he often often sees fallen trees that show symptoms of root rot and bark buckle, conditions that can weaken a tree's integrity.

"You either need to reduce the weight on that limb considerable, or take those limbs off because a lot of people look at those things, and they don't think anything of it," Strauss said.

Strauss also said removing a big tree from a house can be risky, and one bad cut to a fallen tree trunk with a chainsaw can cause the house on which its resting to buckle and fail. He stresses for homeowners not to do it themselves, since working with saws and ladders can be dangerous.