From her downtown home Tuesday morning, Tammy Archuleta saw help in a city official.
"Please, I'd like you to see this," she said to Kurt Schroeder, the Colorado Springs park operations manager among workers who removed wreckage in this neighborhood recovering from the previous day's record windstorm. "I want you to see how fragile this tree is."
With Schroeder at her side, Archuleta traced her finger along the trunk of an ash tree, following the cracks. She peeled off bark like it was cellophane. The tree tilted toward her house, and she worried that something disastrous would happen here like it did across the street: A similar tree, standing a similar 50 feet or so, had toppled and crushed a Subaru parked curb-side. Nervous neighbors here on the 800 block of Kiowa Street recalled the sound as being like potato chips crunching.
Schroeder assured Archuleta he understood her concern. "We'll see if we can get someone to check it out," he told her.
But providing individual assistance in the coming weeks will be tough for the parks department, which has been stretched thin as staffers have teamed up with the even thinner city forestry division to clear the aftermath of hurricane-force winds.
Beside the mangled car on Kiowa Street, 20-year city forestry staffer Patrick Ford, leading a seven-man crew of workers who were supposed to be managing park grounds, remembered the pre-recession days when the division was triple its current size.
In 2008, forestry pulled from a parks budget of $19.9 million. Today, the city's General Fund allots the department $12.1 million.
Ford is one of two maintenance technicians in the division, which has a staff of 10.
"We used to have 14 techs," recalled Ford, who on the morning had a list of 20 jobs that he figured would double by lunchtime. He knew it was unlikely he would get to the first 20.
"Every time the wind blows," he said, "I know I'm gonna get called."
And as gusts roared Monday, officials thought of the 300-plus dead or dying trees that for three years have been on a list, at risk of falling and awaiting removal. Ford and the one other tech worker assigned to the largest land mass in any Colorado city have struggled to keep up with the mounting requests.
On Monday, Mother Nature did some of the job for them. And she did not do it so kindly.
"We knew there were trees out there that were compromised," Schroeder said. "Have a big wind like that, we knew what could happen."
Jay Hein, the city's forester, estimated that well over 100 trees had fallen in public spaces - not counting any in parks, where workers have yet to assess damage as they remain focused on clearing roads and removing debris atop houses and cars. And Hein warned of the potential for more falling trees; Those decaying ones that withstood the wind have likely become more compromised.
The most vulnerable areas - neighborhoods where residents have added the most reports to the three-year waiting list - are the city's downtown and west end. Silver maple is the most common species on the list.
Anyone waiting on a neglected tree to be removed will probably have to wait longer, Hein said.
"We feel bad we have to put people on a long wait anyhow. We feel like it's a disservice," he said. "Now we hate to be pushing them back further. But when there's an emergency like this, we have to tackle the most pressing issues."
On Tuesday morning, the issue was on Kiowa Street. Ford controlled the forestry division's only machine with a claw, clamping it on the collapsed trunk and lifting it from the mashed Subaru to reveal a child's car seat in the back. After a half-hour of cleanup, a worker drove the division's one bucket truck to a dump-off site, which was running out of space. Hein was looking for an alternative place for trunks and twigs to be dumped.
Before going back inside, Archuleta glanced up again at the leaning tree by her house.
"We've tried to play board games to occupy our minds," she said.