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Drought Turned Texas Trees Into Safety Hazards

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Andrea Lucia
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FORT WORTH (CBSDW.COM) - A rotting tree limb collapsed on a mother and son, Sunday, as they were hanging clothes out to dry in the backyard of a Fort Worth home.

“All of a sudden it just came down. He fell one way. I fell the other,” said 61-year-old Ludie Riley.  “The whole branch came across the both of us.”

Trapped underneath, Riley and her son, Suran Jones, screamed for help, until Jones’ fiancé, Olivia Turner heard them and dialed 911.

“They had to break some of the branches to get to them,” said Turner, of firefighters’ efforts to rescue them.

The family says it has had several branches break and fall over the last few months, but the problem is hardly isolated to their home.

The city of Fort Worth recently began cutting down more than 1,200 trees, marked as safety hazards in public areas. That is triple the number it cut down last year.

“A lot of is because of the drought situation that occurred last summer,” said David Creek, of Fort Worth Parks & Community Department.

The Texas Forest Service is currently doing a survey to determine how many trees have been affected by the drought.  Late last year, it estimated between 100 million to 500 million.

The number, though, could still grow.

“This year is when the impact really hits,” said Glen Jennings, with the Arbor Masters Tree Service.

Experiencing their busiest summer in history, the company has brought in employees from out of state to help nurse sick trees back to health and chop down dying ones.

“Any tree that was stressed by the drought are more susceptible to insects and diseases,” said Jennings. “The ones that didn’t die directly from the drought are being attacked and killed by other pests.”

The weaker the tree, the more brittle its branches may become, he said, increasing the risk they’ll break and fall.

Riley is not angry at the particular branch that fell on her, just grateful she survived to tell the story.

“I’m blessed that I’m here,” she said.

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