A citywide effort sent 2,860 tons of shredded trees to generate energy in St. Paul. FEMA covered most of the tab: nearly $240,000.
Hastings has just finished cleaning up the last debris - 13 boulevard stumps - from the June 19 windstorm that toppled hundreds of trees around the river town.
In a cleanup that ended Friday, most of the trees wound up as fuel to provide hot water and lights in downtown St. Paul.
Here's how that happened:
Step one, first response: It took the city two days to clear all city streets of debris left by the storm, the worst natural disaster since the 1965 Mississippi River flooding, local officials said.
"It was a great concentrated effort by city crews and the public," said Mayor Paul Hicks. "It was a miracle how all the residents pitched in to help neighbors with trees and help city crews get the logs to the streets for later pickup."
Step two, transport: It took about five weeks for residents to cut and pile wood and for the city to haul tree trunks and branches to a nearly three-acre brush-disposal site. Crews buried the site 15 feet deep in tree debris, said Public Works Superintendent Mark Peine.
"Pretty much everything we have that could haul brush we threw at this thing," he added. Everything included five dump trucks, two front-end loaders and two skid loaders. Peine noted that every city department helped; police, firefighters, even finance staff helped clear tree debris. From 15 to 30 staff members worked full-time on the cleanup for about six weeks, he said.
"It was a citywide effort. Everybody pitched in," Peine said.
At the disposal site, at no cost to Hastings, the storm debris was turned into mulch. A lot of mulch.
Step three, grinding: A St. Paul company brought in a huge grinder that worked almost three weeks to shred the wood.
The city gave the 2,860 tons of mulch to the company, Environmental Wood Supply, that provides wood fuel for St. Paul's downtown district energy system. "We were able get rid of it and they were able to use. It was a win-win for everybody," Hicks said.
Step four, burn it: It took 143 semi-trailer truck loads to haul it all to St. Paul. Peine said. The mulch provided wood fuel for the plant for almost four days.
That means Hastings trees fired a boiler that made enough steam energy during the four days to light more than 60,000 homes and supply hot water needs for the State Capitol and other downtown buildings, said Jeff Guillemette, biomass fuel manager for Environmental Wood.
Who pays? City workers put in 665 hours of overtime on the cleanup, in addition to regular time worked. All together, it cost $238,823, including $42,570 for overtime labor, about $80,000 for equipment, and $63,000 for supplies, said Finance Director Char Stark. However, because the event was declared a natural disaster, the Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursed the city $194,695, she said. City insurance covered about $34,000 for damaged park equipment, leaving the city's net cost at $9,805, Stark said.
Final thoughts: Hicks remains struck by the memory of driving around Hastings the morning after the storm hit.
"I was amazed by the devastation," he said. "Roadways were blocked, power lines down, there was no electrical power."
It took about three days before all power was restored, Peine said. "Trees were on roofs and cars. It was like a war zone, but nobody was hurt."
The city's southwest side, which took the brunt of the storm, is less green in its aftermath.
"Some streets that had tree-lined canopies are quite a bit different," Peine said. "You can see things in people's yards that you never knew existed."
Jim Adams 952-746-3283