Monday, October 31, 2011

BLOG EXTRA! When Autumn Leaves...Pack With Snow

Wow. Right when you're all set to enjoy the colorful fall foliage, along comes a freaky autumn snowstorm of deep-winter proportions.

Of course, the results are predictable. Leaves hold onto snow, adding tremendous weight to tree branches that would otherwise shrug off the frozen stuff. The sound of breaking limbs reverberates through neighborhoods, accompanied by cold darkness as shattered tree parts bring down power lines. At last count, something like 3 million households and businesses have been left without power.

Clearly, Halloween has delivered all Trick and no Treat.

My agent, Gina Panettieri, reports from Connecticut that she has a tree in her swimming pool, and no one in the area has gas or hot water.

Courtesy Alexandra Owens

In New Jersey, American Society of Journalists and Authors Executive Editor Alexandra Owens has trees down all over her neighborhood, including in her own front yard where her Callery pear split down the middle. (The species is notorious for buckling under stress.)

There isn't much you can do to save large, leafy trees from damage when a storm dumps not just inches, but feet of wet, sticky snow. If you've taken preventive measures by pruning trees to create stronger branching habits, whether your tree then comes through unscathed will depend on how much of a weight lifter it's become.

Some tree species just naturally have branch angles better able to carry greater weights. Others—such as Alexandra's pear—don't.

But there is something you can do to help shrubs. Wade out in the snow with a broom and start brushing off the frozen stuff, beginning at the bottom and working your way up. Don't bat at it—just brush and lightly jiggle the branches. If the weight has already warped the shrub, it will often resume its proper shape over the next few days if branches haven't been broken.

Once power has returned to the area, the daunging job of cleanup begins...

This posting will be updated as other photos and stories arrive. And do leave comments on what the storm has done to your area!


Alexandra Owens said...

The rest of that tree came down later in the day, Sandra. I guess this is nature's way of pruning the neighborhood.

Sandra Dark said...

You're right, Alexandra. As Dean Hill says, this is nature's way of culling weak plants. And it also presents opportunities for planting trees that at more extreme-weather tolerant.