Hug a tree be­fore it’s gone

The Covington News - - Opinion - Bar­bara Mor­gan Colum­nist Bar­bara Mor­gan is a Cov­ing­ton res­i­dent with a back­ground in news­pa­per jour­nal­ism, state gov­ern­ment and pol­i­tics.

Ex­actly a week ago, Cov­ing­ton was brac­ing for a storm as dusk was com­ing on.

Tree-bend­ing winds whipped through town, thun­der made the rafters shud­der, and we ex­pected a tor­rent of rain to fol­low, pos­si­bly a dam­ag­ing com­bi­na­tion of heavy rain and hail and fe­ro­cious winds.

Sal­lie and Jonathan Paschal were sitting on their Cony­ers Street front porch, a bit wary of the blow-y spec­ta­cle that was un­fold­ing.

Sud­denly, they heard a loud crack fol­lowed by a crash and saw the street lighted up by spark­ing elec­tri­cal wires.

Peer­ing down the street, they could tell the dam­age had oc­curred a cou­ple of houses east of theirs, at Cathy and Bill Laseter’s home.

Sal­lie picked up the phone and called Cathy, mo­men­tar­ily un­aware that any­thing had hap­pened. The whip­saw­ing wind had cracked off a huge por­tion from the top of the tow­er­ing tree, so much that the en­tire tree won’t sur­vive.

At about 7 p.m., power along por­tions of Cony­ers Street, East Street and Thompson Av­enue went off, and city work­ers, fire and res­cue per­son­nel showed up faster than you could snap your fin­gers, by all ac­counts.

They worked fever­ishly to re­store power by some­where be­tween 1 and 2 a.m.

In the mean­time, a power ou­tage party had formed on the Laseters’ back porch, mak­ing the best of a bad sit­u­a­tion. But there’s more. Close to 7 p.m., Cov­ing­ton City Coun­cil­man Mike What­ley, with Bil­lie Jean at the wheel, was head­ing west on Cony­ers Street. About the time they reached the Laseter home, a large por­tion of the fall­ing tree thumped down on their car, crack­ing the wind­shield and dam­ag­ing the hood.

Mike called for Bil­lie Jean to put the car in re­verse ly to get out from un­der the tree, and it worked. Still, they were sur­rounded by spark­ing elec­tri­cal wires and re­mained trapped un­til res­cue per­son­nel freed them.

They suf­fered no se­ri­ous in­juries, but are walk­ing around with whiplash, bruis­ing and over­all sore­ness. “If we had been even 1-2 sec­onds ahead of where we were, the out­come would have been a lot worse,” Mike says.

Fri­day night was also dis­as­trous for one of Cov­ing­ton’s most beau­ti­ful old oaks in the Cony­ers Street front yard of Jonnie and Ge­orge Hart. They weren’t home, but later would find that a huge limb had fallen and cov­ered one whole side of the yard. They’re call­ing in an ar­borist to de­ter­mine if the tree will be able to sur­vive, but Jonnie fears the worst. They lost a twin to this tree some years ago. “We were told to keep the dead limbs trimmed, but the limb that fell wasn’t dead,” she said.

Cov­ing­ton is los­ing an in­creas­ing num­ber of the large old oak trees that con­trib­ute sig­nif­i­cantly to the tree canopy that keeps us cool and green — and award-win­ning in that Cov­ing­ton has been named a Tree City USA. City code re­quires a canopy man­age­ment plan, and a new canopy study is to be done within the next year or so, ac­cord­ing to City Ar­borist Kevin Sor­row.

A Tree Preser­va­tion Fund, a line item in the city bud­get, con­tains $65,000 for tree re­place­ment, re­moval, stump grind­ing, Ar­bor Day plant­ings and things like the new wells around land­scape trees around the Square.

Most of the trees go­ing down are wa­ter oaks, ac­cord­ing to Sor­row, a va­ri­ety of oak that be­gins to de­cline in well un­der 100 years. You can rec­og­nize the wa­ter oak for its short leaves that are wider at the end with three un-formed lobes. Com­bine a short­lived wa­ter oak with the dam­ag­ing ef­fects of pro- tracted drought, fierce wind and too much rain, and you’ve got a disas­ter wait­ing to hap­pen. A wa­ter oak that falls on city prop­erty is re­placed with a hardier and longer-lived spec­i­men like the red or white oak. Un­for­tu­nately, most tree loss doesn’t oc­cur on city prop­erty, but Sor­row says he is al­ways look­ing for new places to plant more.

County ar­borist Deb­bie Bell, a land­scape ar­chi­tect and staff to the county’s His­toric Preser­va­tion or­di­nance, came up with this in­ter­est­ing story about wa­ter oaks in city land­scap­ing. It was back in the 1930s when cities be­gan the busi­ness of land­scap­ing streets and parks. Wa­ter oaks were the most read­ily avail­able tree at the time, so wa­ter oaks were planted in great num­bers and be­came the most com­mon tree around many towns. With the aging of this mass of trees, cities like Colum­bus and Grif­fin, ac­cord­ing to Bell, are suf­fer­ing a sig­nif­i­cant loss of tree canopy. She rec­om­mends that in­di­vid­ual home­own­ers con­tact the Ge­or­gia Forestry Com­mis­sion Com­mu­nity and Ur­ban Forestry Divi­sion, staffed by lo­cally known Beryl Budd, with ques­tions about the main­te­nance or loss of aging trees.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.