Grosse Pointe officials assess aftermath of serious July storm

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published September 5, 2023

 A white oak on Washington Road in Grosse Pointe City that’s believed to be more than 250 years old had  to be taken down after it was damaged during a  severe storm July 26. Its age was determined  by counting the rings in the trunk.

A white oak on Washington Road in Grosse Pointe City that’s believed to be more than 250 years old had to be taken down after it was damaged during a severe storm July 26. Its age was determined by counting the rings in the trunk.

Photo provided by Seth Krupp

GROSSE POINTES — The Grosse Pointes — in particular, Grosse Pointe Farms and Grosse Pointe City — are crediting their employees, contractors and volunteers with helping them to recover from a devastating storm that swept through the community the afternoon of July 26.

Farms City Manager Shane Reeside said the National Weather Service has now confirmed that a funnel cloud was spotted over the Farms that day.

The Farms lost roughly 120 trees, about half of which were city-owned, Reeside said during an Aug. 14 Farms City Council meeting.

“It was a massive effort to open up streets and clear away damage,” Reeside said.

He thanked the city’s Department of Public Works, Department of Public Safety, police reserve unit and tree removal contractor Metro Detroit Tree & Firewood for their speedy and thorough response.

“Kudos to the whole city staff,” Farms Mayor Louis Theros said. “Seeing you come together … was just fantastic.”

Reeside said they’re still tallying the cost, but it’s expected to be in the six figures.

“It was pretty dramatic and we’re just grateful we got through it as well as we did,” Reeside said.

Within a couple of days of the storm, the city did recover some of its canopy, thanks to a gift from the family of Brian Fraser, one of the Michigan State University students killed in a mass shooting on campus in February. His family organized a fundraising effort to plant trees in the Farms, City and Park. Reeside said the Farms received 32 trees because of this.

In addition, Reeside said the Farms will be planting another 75 to 100 trees in the right of way this fall.

Brian Colter, the city forester for Grosse Pointe City, Grosse Pointe Farms and Grosse Pointe Park, said the Farms got hit the worst, with the City as a close second. Colter, who has been working as a forester in the Pointes for 30 years, remembers the horrific straight-line windstorm that hit the communities on July 2, 1997, toppling countless trees and claiming the lives of several picnickers at Pier Park.

“This is the worst (storm) since ’97,” Colter said.

Colter added that there were “no injuries, fortunately,” in the most recent storm.

He said the City lost about 25 trees on municipal property July 26. Colter said the City still has about 3,000 city-owned street trees, not including those at Elworthy Field or Neff Park.

Thanks to the Brian Fraser Memorial Tree Planting effort, Colter said they were able to plant about 111 trees in the Farms, Park and City. That equates to approximately $30,000 worth of trees, Colter said. Most of the planting was done over a three-day stretch, but Colter said the first tree — a magnolia — was planted May 26 at Patterson Park in Grosse Pointe Park. The Frasers, who live in the Park, have a “beautiful magnolia tree” in their yard, and Colter said they told him that their son “loved trees.” The Patterson Park magnolia tree, which is located between the boardwalk entrance and the gazebo, features a plaque that Colter said was donated by Steve Embree, of the Embree Sign Co.

Grosse Pointe City officials recognized the hard work and dedication of their staff and administrators during an Aug. 21 City Council meeting.

“I thank you guys for all caring so much,” City Councilman Christopher Walsh said. “I’m proud to be here and proud of all that you do.”

City Councilman Seth Krupp said he was “sad to see all those trees that were lost,” but thanks to the City’s Urban Forestry Commission, they were able to plant about 100 trees in the City.

One of the trees that they lost was older than any of the Grosse Pointes, and older, even, than the United States. Krupp said a white oak in either the 600 or 700 block of Washington Road fell victim to the storm. Krupp said damage from the storm made the oak unsafe, so it had to be cut down. Given that it had more than 250 rings, it’s believed to be well over 250 years old. Krupp said they’re trying to preserve a slice of the trunk, similar to what Grosse Pointe Park did with one of its older trees when it fell years ago.

The start of The Village Sidewalk Sale and the Paint the Windows contest took place July 27, only a day after the storm. Main Street Grosse Pointe Executive Director Cindy Willcock said The Village “couldn’t have gotten through that” without the work of the DPW and the Public Safety Department.

“Our businesses rely on this (sale) to help fill out their budgets for the year,” Willcock said.

She said City Public Safety Director John Alcorn worked with the other chiefs in the area and Ray Laethem Motor Village provided two vehicles to block streets.

“I’d never witnessed that level of (community) cooperation (before),” Willcock said.

Mayor Sheila Tomkowiak was proud of her community.

“The dedication is overwhelming,” Tomkowiak said.”