Pine Canyon is still cleaning up after the June 13 storm | Heraldrepublican


PINE CANYON LAKE — Jim Yakowicz lost an estimated 50 trees in the June 13 storm that tore through Steuben County.

And like his roughly 50-odd neighbors around the 150-acre private lake, the trees are still scattered like Lincoln Logs thrown from their container on the rec room floor.

Not a single property in Pine Canyon was spared, and Yakowicz was one of many hit by the storm.

“One of them,” Jakowicz said on the morning of Aug. 5 as crews began showing up to continue working to clean up and repair his property.

Rex Platt, who lives across the lake from Jakowicz, estimated that upwards of 2,000 trees were uprooted during the storm that brought a straight line of wind to Steuben County.

And weeks later, tress are still falling, some in remote areas, and some in yards, like Jakowicz’s. Many other trees are in poor condition and marked for removal.

Platt was out of town when the storm hit. When he got home, he had to cross the lake by boat because the road was impassable and would stay in parts of the lake for days. There are some residents in the lake who cannot come out for three days.

Areas north and west of Crooked Lake appear to have been affected by the storm, where Pine Canyon took a direct hit or a straight-line wind or a microburst, neighbors said.

Driving around this lake west of Crooked Lake still shows plenty of evidence of the storm more than two months after the fact.

This secluded lake community was built around a lake created by a gravel pit that closed in the mid-20th century. The environment, which forms this lake community is unmatched in Steuben County. Unlike many woods in Steuben County, this lake is full of pine with little hardwood. A view from the north of the lake area, along a wall of pines that stands at the south end of a field, shows where the storm first hit and the path it took.

Platt said all the pines in Pine Canyon — literally thousands of them still — were the work of an FFA group that planted them in the 1940s.

The trees are now above the lake, and because of their proximity to each other, they rely on each other to stay standing, Platt said. He contends they were planted too close together in time.

As you drive left across the lake to get to Platt’s home, which he shares with his daughter, Christine Shumway and husband Edward, there are trees piled up along the side of the road. Some of the clearing was by the Steuben County Highway Department — Pine Canyon roads are county roads — and some was by the Steuben County Rural Electric Membership Corp., which had to step into the carnage to restore power. .

Roofing crews work here and there, and homeowners report that it’s difficult to line up contractors because of the regular seasonal demand.

Private tree companies are still working.

“It was a non-stop sound, the chippers and the chain saws,” Shumway said.

“No one missed. Everyone was hit,” Platt said.

“We woke up the morning (of June 14) and we had a tree on our house or a tree on our house,” resident Marsha Beck said.

Jakowicz has five trees in his house. After the storm, he couldn’t leave his house because the debris blocked his door on the side of the road.

“I couldn’t even get out the front door. There are 26 trees in my driveway,” Jakowicz said.

Much work has been accomplished in the nearly two months since his storm, but much remains to be done.

“We’re going in. I have two windows to replace on the other side,” said Jakowicz.

Adding insult to injury for Jakowicz was the fact that his staff had to stop work because they all contracted COVID-19.

“They were cleaning up after my crew caught the COVID,” Jakowicz said.

Because of all the cut pine trees, the Pine Canyon Lake area literally smells like someone sprayed a giant pine air freshener.

That smell may soon disappear when people outside the lake area get word that there is free wood for the taking. While pine may not be the best for home heating, people still take it and put it out, which helps clean up, Christine Shumway said.

This is helping in an area where there are literally fallen trees and branches lining the roads. While most of the debris has been pushed to the right of way, some trees are nearby, and residents fear they could impede snow removal if left over the winter.

“Obviously the county came in and cleaned up the road, but left things on the side of the road,” resident Kevin Miller said at a July 18 meeting of the Steuben County Board of Commissioners.

Miller and Beck are asking for help from the county, but officials say they’ve done all they can.

“We appreciate the county coming in,” Shumway said.

No disaster assistance is available in Steuben County. Only Allen County and adjacent DeKalb and Noble counties were declared disasters from the June 13 hurricane that allowed businesses and nonprofits to seek federal low-interest loan assistance.

The June 13 storm clocked winds of up to 98 mph in Allen County. In Steuben County, the estimate given by the National Weather Service is about 60 mph. Parts of LaGrange and Steuben counties recorded upwards of 8 inches of rain. Allen County got 9 inches.

Miller said it would cost an estimated $80,000 to clean up the common areas in Pine Canyon.

“It’s pretty big for homeowners,” he said.

Residents praised the work of the Steuben County REMC, which worked diligently to restore power in an area where poles and equipment were downed along with trees. Extensive damage was caused to the REMC system in the area.

“In Pine Canyon we lost six poles and five transformers, but due to extensive tree damage we had to re-conductor 10,000 feet of … wire inside the subdivision,” said Kevin Keiser, president and CEO of Steuben County REMC.

REMC called in Kankakee Valley REMC crews for mutual aid, and they worked hard in the Pine Canyon area as well as points west of there. Crews working for a company assisting with REMC’s fiber stringing operation, Kent Power, were also called in to assist.

“In addition to the Kankakee crew, we are fortunate to already have four crews from Kent Power here to assist us in our construction preparations for the Fiber to the Home Project. In fact, these crews only worked in the Pine Canyon area a week before the storm. So, because of their familiarity with the area and that particular subdivision they were able to expedite what was needed and get the restoration process started quickly,” Keizer said. “The storm itself was devastating and all of the Steuben County employees ( REMC) and outside construction crews did a fantastic job restoring service in less than three days, which is quite an achievement when you consider the amount of damage caused by the storm and the oppressive heat and humidity that follow.”

“The guys from REMC are awesome,” Platt said.

During those three days, the people living in Pine Canyon were left to improvise. Baths are taken in the lake. Had to haul water. Life is primitive.

“It’s as wild as you can get,” Shumway said.

Before starting to haul the wood, Platt was worried about what might happen to all that firewood on the ground.

“If it ever catches fire, you’re going to have one hell of a story because it’s going to take everything out,” Platt said.

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