Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Ice Storm Aftermath

Weather forecasters are predicting a snowy winter ahead.  Not only does deep snow make it difficult for me to do my management work, it can have a devastating effect on the trees.  These cedars are a good example of what can happen when a heavy load of snow and ice accumulates in the tree tops.

Conditions were perfect for a tree toppling disaster.  The soil on this site is deep and moist.  Cedars sprouted up close together and gained height rapidly.  At the time of the ice storm, these trees were tall, but had very narrow trunks.  They had little strength and depended on each other for additional support.  When the first tree began to lean, it created a domino effect that took down most of the stand.

Because of the pattern of the falling trees, a few were left upright.  The result was a mess of trees going in all directions.  This reminds me of some of the photos I saw after the eruption of Mt. St. Helens.

Some of the leaning trees produced side branches that continued the vertical growth.  Seeing this seemingly normal orientation arising from the tangle of tree trunks makes me imagine an aerial garden sprouting from some modernistic scaffolding.  This arrangement won’t work for long.  Eventually, the weight will be enough to bring the trees the rest of the way to the ground.

Most trees die when they end up flat on the ground.  This cedar must have a treemendous will to live.  It began life on the bank of a small drain.  The fall exposed the bulk of the root system and laid most of the trunk on the ground.  I would never have expected this tree to survive, but it is still alive and growing.  If you follow along the trunk to the top of the tree, you’ll find healthy branches heading for the sky.

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