Cleanup Continues After Major Windstorm

County asks that people refrain from burning recently fallen trees

By Justin Franz
Fallen trees along East Lakeshore Drive north of Whitefish on March 17, 2020. A massive windstorm uprooted trees all around Flathead County on March 14 and 15. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

More than a week after a windstorm blew through the Flathead Valley, downed trees from Flathead Lake to Big Mountain, locals are still trying to clean up the mess.

On March 13, a windstorm with gusts in excess of 65 miles per hour, roared through the region, knocking out power to thousands. John Werre, a Flathead Valley resident since 1944, said he lost more than 200 trees on his 20-acre property in Creston.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said. “You might get a big windstorm and lose a tree or two, but nothing like this.”

Werre said it took more than six hours working with a backhoe to clear a path through his driveway and that he estimates it will take all summer to clean up the mess.

Further north, near Whitefish, the Whitefish Trail at Smith Creek and Smith Lake were closed until further notice due to “extreme blow down.”

Meanwhile, although open burning began on March 1, local officials are asking residents to think twice before they burn any of the recently fallen trees. Fire Service Area Manager Lincoln Chute said that many of the trees that fell in the storm were still green and thus would not burn effectively. He said the best option is to clear the trees out of the way and either chip the wood or pile it up to dry out over the summer.

“Those (recently fallen) trees are just not going to burn well,” he said. “There are better ways to handle these trees.”

No permit is required to burn through April 30 although officials ask that people only burn when the air quality is good. Before starting any fire, residents should call (406)751-8144 or visit https://flatheadhealth.org/environmental-health/burn-restrictions/

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