- Associated Press - Thursday, March 20, 2014

SPEARFISH, S.D. (AP) - Some communities in western South Dakota are still working to clean up and repair trees more than five months after an early fall blizzard slammed the region.

The two-day blizzard that hit Oct. 4 dumped as much as 4 feet of snow in the Black Hills, downing or damaging thousands of trees.

The Belle Fourche City Council this week approved bids totaling $100,000 to complete tree branch cleanup around town and in a cemetery, the Black Hills Pioneer reported. The city is eligible for federal reimbursement of up to 75 percent of the cost if the cleanup is completed by May 7.

“We’re under the gun time-wise to get Pine Slope (Cemetery) cleaned up and our public parks cleaned up if we want to get any reimbursement,” City Engineer Ryan Kavan said.

Cleanup also is continuing in Spearfish, where city crews hope to plant about three dozen trees in the city park this spring. Crews with Black Hills Power recently felled six cottonwoods there that were damaged by the storm and were threatening power lines.

Workers in Sturgis hope to finish pruning damaged trees in the next couple of weeks, before they begin to bud, KEVN-TV reported.

As many as 90 percent of the broadleaf trees in the area have some damage from the storm, but many can be saved, according to Alan Bennett, who runs a tree service.

“A lot of it has to do with whether it’s a native species of tree. Is it one of the ash trees or a cottonwood?” he said. “Some of those trees can sustain a lot of damage, and they can still be pruned up to keep.”

In Rapid City, where the city wrapped up tree branch cleanup early this year at a cost of $2.5 million, tree service companies still are busy. Mark Voss with Johnson Tree Service said he has added a second four-man crew to keep up with the demand.

“The springtime, once it warms up where people can spend a weekend out in the yard, that tends to be when the phones start getting busy,” he said. “There’s still a lot going back and cleaning up the wounds on these trees so that they’ll callous over quicker, and heal up easier.”