‘Operation Timber Strike!’ Remembered as Successful Response and Recovery Effort Five Years Later

On April 9, 2013, Sioux Falls and the surrounding area was covered with a thick blanket of ice. The storm resulted in an eight-month recovery effort called “Operation Timber Strike!” It was one of the longest and most expensive cleanup efforts in the City’s history, but also one of the biggest wins of the past eight years.

“The word ‘team’ exemplifies how our great city was able to tackle and ultimately conquer the most challenging weather-related emergency we have faced. I have always been proud of our city, but that ice storm took the pride I have for Sioux Falls and those who care for it to an all-time high,” says Mayor Mike Huether.

Many pieces came together to create a successful response and recovery effort. The Emergency Operations Center opened within 45 minutes of the beginning of the weather event and remained operational for 21 days. It set priorities and objectives; developed daily incident action plans; managed numerous City, County, State, and private resources; and communicated with the public and response partners. The City command team established public safety as the highest priority, and no fatalities or significant injuries resulted from the storm.

The City also quickly established five customer-friendly public branch drop-off sites so that residents could begin to restore their properties. Within days, the City went to work removing branches and other debris from streets, the public right-of-way, and parks. By the end of the operations, City and contracted crews:
• Removed 25,758 hazardous hanging branches
• Removed 972 hazardous trees
• Ground and hauled 55,000 tons of debris using a coordinated, environmentally friendly method
• Ground 1,383 stumps

“Our goals from day one were first to keep people safe and then to restore our city, and we worked to do that with a tremendous team effort. Now, five years later, I think we can say we accomplished that and so much more,” says Mark Cotter, Director of Public Works.

By the end of 2018, all trees in the public right-of-way across the entire city will be inspected through Project T.R.I.M. since the ice storm. Each year, different neighborhoods are surveyed through the five-year cyclic street tree trimming program to ensure trees over streets and sidewalks are free from low-hanging branches. About 1,800 trees have been planted in the park system since the ice storm, and about 13,000 park trees have been evaluated for restoration pruning.

Final costs of the response and recovery operations reached nearly $8 million. The Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursed the City for nearly $6 million.