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Thursday, May 28

Texas storms destroy large number of trees the state can't afford to lose

Tree damage in Oklahoma from a tornado

The storms amounted to a combination hurricane, tsunami, and tornado, the likes of which Texas residents had never seen before except maybe with Hurricane Ike in 2008.  In fact, much of the damage from flooding looks like a tornado had struck.  It will be several weeks before the scope of the damage is tallied. But one consequence of the storm hasn't gotten attention, although it was mentioned in a broadcast aired last night on a local radio station here in Washington, DC (WMAL):

A Texas official said that many priceless trees had been destroyed -- pecan, cypress, and he named one other I don't recall --  many of them "four, five, six hundred years old."  

He added that the trees "had withstood thousands of storms" and now they were gone.  So by this measure, at least, the storms that struck this weekend in Texas were worse than Hurricane Ike.  

I haven't found the source for the official's remarks but a passage in a May 25 AP report alluded to the widespread damage to trees in Texas:
Hundreds of trees along the Blanco [River] were uprooted or snapped, and they collected in piles of debris that soared 20 feet high.
"We've got trees in the rafters," said Cherri Maley, property manager of a house where the structure's entire rear portion collapsed with the flooding, carrying away furniture.
Because two large Texas cities were in the path of the storms (Houston, America's fourth largest city, and Austin) the national press has concentrated on how the storms have been impacting that state but Oklahoma was also hit hard. On Tuesday the state's governor issued an emergency declaration for all 77 of the state's counties; this ahead of applying for federal disaster relief.

I have no idea how the storms, including tornadoes, affected Oklahoma's trees, but these remarks from Tree Bank Foundation's project on tree planting suggests the damage will be widespread:
Oklahoma has an average of 53 tornadoes annually. This results in severe damage to local trees which are very hard to replace. In the event of a tornado, the Tree Bank Foundation will raise funds for trees to replace those lost in the storm.
Please join The Tree Bank by assisting our neighbors across storm-ravaged Oklahoma. The funds raised will be used directly in those communities that have suffered damage from the recent storms. The Tree Bank will partner with Keep Oklahoma Beautiful, Oklahoma Forestry Services and the Oklahoma Nursery and Landscape Association to provide trees, planting and maintenance education and volunteers to help plant the trees. The tree planting volunteer day will take place on Saturday, November 8.
I wish very much these worthy people would think to add the year to their announcements. Forgetting to add the year is endemic on the Internet but I'm sure that even if the call was for a previous year, there will be another one for this year.  53 tornadoes annually.  You couldn't pay me to live in Oklahoma.

Moving along, this is just one of the ways desertification proceeds on little cat feet. Another way, which I've mentioned before but which bears repeating:  first comes the drought, then comes the deluge, then the drought comes back. This means all the lovely green that sprung up during the flooding turns to bone-dry  tinder.   Then comes the forest fires.

Repeat the cycle, only with each pass topsoil is washed away, trees left standing from the fires are weakened, then entire stands of forest disappear.

That's one way of telling the story of the human race's life.


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