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Older trees downed in wind storm raises questions over city's aging canopy

A massive clean-up effort is underway after Monday night’s wicked wind storm knocked down trees across the city.

Toronto’s Forestry department got 447 calls for downed trees following the storm.

Cranes were called in to help clear branches that littered city streets as crews chopped and sawed through the damage. Even some of the biggest arbours in the city proved to be no match for the strong gusts.

At the height of the storm, winds on Toronto Islands and at Pearson airport topped out at 98 km/h.

The massive destruction has raised concerns about the city’s aging canopy. Some of the older trees uprooted in the storm were dead or dying.

“Just because there’s leaves up there, as long as the sap can go up and make the leaves turn green and bud every year everybody thinks it’s alive but it’s not,” Doug Ainsworth with Ontario Line Clearing and Tree Services told CityNews as he stood next to a downed 85-year-old tree in the Bloor West Village area.

City officials say there has been an increase of tree removal applications due to the aging canopy and those deemed to be hazardous will be assessed immediately.

But it wasn’t just aging trees that felt the brunt of the heavy winds. Younger, live trees also came crashing down – leaving homeowners with a big mess and an even bigger repair bill.

Most home insurance policies will pick up the tab but if a rotted tree from someone else’s yard causes damage, that’s when it could get costly.

“Your insurance company may pay for the damages and then go after the owner of the tree if there’s an obvious fault with that tree,” Pete Karageorgos with the Insurance Bureau of Canada explained.

If a vehicle was damaged by a falling tree and the owner doesn’t have comprehensive auto coverage, the insurance company is not responsible for the bill.

Karageorgos adds that the homeowner may also have to cover the price of removal if no damage is done.

“Most insurance companies may not cover the damage of just the removal of a tree if it doesn’t do any damage to a home or a fence.”

Depending on the age of the tree it could cost thousands of dollars to remove.