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      Grand Strand tree removers swamped as Irene approaches

      For the past three years, a tall, spindly pine tree leaned precariously close to Dorothy Long's house in Myrtle Beach and she knew something would have to be done about it eventually. As she watched Hurricane Irene slowly approaching the East Coast this week, Long decided to wait no longer.

      "I thought it's about time to call the tree service and get that leaning Tower of Pisa down," Long said.

      It's not just her own home that Long was worried about. "Also my neighbor's house," Long said. "They have two children. We don't have anybody living upstairs in our house, but I was concerned, yes."

      A three-man crew from J & J Complete Tree Service of Myrtle Beach made quick work of Long's leaning tree Thursday morning, one of the scores of trees the crew has taken care of this week.

      "Mostly right now everybody's concerned about the hurricane on the way and anything endangering their house, they want to go ahead and take it down or trim it back away from the house," said co-owner Josh Edwards.

      Though it was a pine tree that Long was concerned about, Edwards said longleaf pines, the most common species along the Coastal Carolinas, rarely collapse in a hurricane. Their root structure is deep and strong enough to prevent that, he said. But they may lose limbs that can cause property damage during a storm and Edwards said that's why many people choose to trim them back before strong winds arrive.

      Hardwood trees, like oaks and maples, have broader, shallower roots, making them more vulnerable to hurricane or tropical storm force winds, Edwards said. Palm trees are not usually a concern in hurricanes.

      Edwards' crew has been busy doing two to three jobs per day, since Irene starting churning in the Caribbean with a path that looked to be headed toward the Grand Strand.

      Hurricane season is always his company's busiest time of the year, but Edwards said homeowners should think about ridding their property of weak trees long before a storm is looming, when the tree service companies in the area may all be too busy to take on another job.

      "It's a lot easier to get [trees] taken care of now than when they're through the middle of the house and you have to crane them out."

      Edwards' men trimmed other trees on Long's property once they were finished toppling the pine tree, but she said the leaning pine was her greatest concern and she was pleased to see it no longer a threat to her home.

      "Better safe than sorry," she said.

      What have you done to get your home hurricane ready?