Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Morning After Sandy

A house on Hillcrest (no injuries)
A storage shed on South East street exploded
Large branch on top of car East Pleasant Street
Large pine branch blocked E Pleasant Street at height of storm


Dr. Ed said...

Larry, looking at the top picture, I am reminded of something that Alan Snow once told me about "tree prisons."

Roots are what hold a tree in the ground, and trees are not light. And when you get 50 feet or higher, you have quite a bit of leverage essentially trying to rip the tree out of the ground.

Note the twisted "anchor root" on the right, and also how the ground is buckled under the white picket fence. You should have seen those all around the tree, and you don't. You should see other jagged "anchor roots" sticking out like the bones in a compound fracture.

The street itself should have been ripped up badly enough to require a backhoe to make it passable again. And with the exception of things like cracks in granite, there are very few straight lines in nature. (The brooks in Amherst run in straight lines because they were hand dug by humans.)

Softwoods in particular tend to have roots quite near the surface, as opposed to an Oak with tap roots going straight down.

My guess is that the roots across the top of your picture were cut by a human at some point. Curb, street, sidewalk, whatever -- someone cut them for some human enterprise and trees are like drunken fratboys, trees need an amazing amount of water and they will aggressively go after it once they find it.

But they aren't going to grow roots where there isn't any - and the roots may well have stopped growing on their own because there is no water under a solid asphalt surface. In any case, it is like a stacked domino, and once the wind blew from the right direction, over she went.

Now this tree was living off water it found essentially where it landed -- it could (and did) grow roots in that direction, and wind from those quarters would never have blown it over. But wind from an unusual direction did, it was the tree's Achilles Heel.

Which goes to Alan Snow's point about "tree prisons." We take a tree that needs a house-sized area of land for its rootball and put it into a 4' x 4' (or smaller) area of land and actually expect it to live. An aggressive species like the Norway Maple actually can -- it will crack open sewer lines and everything else in the process, it will find water much like a fratboy will find his beer.

It is a non-native species from a far harsher climate (Norway) and we aren't allowed to plant it anymore (a decision I disagree with) because it will seed itself absolutely everywhere within a couple hundred yards (including inside aluminum house gutters).

A Norway Maple wouldn't have come down as one piece, and if it did, it would have taken the street (and likely the gas/water lines with it). But the more genteel species aren't going to grow roots under paved surfaces and when they get this tall, they have the inherent vulnerability this one had.

And we are talking about something that weighs at least two tons, often quite a bit more, and falling from some height. Not good -- and a real (1938-ish) hurricane going through Amherst Woods would not be pretty.

Dr. Ed said...

One other thought -- Larry, seeing this tree down, do you have any different views on the wisdom of permitting a developer to cut down a similar one (likely with the same Achilles Heel) in exchange for planting two other trees where Alan wanted them planted?

If the town had said "no" and that tree had blown down last night, where would you be then? And worse, if it had landed on a house and killed someone, I would argue at least moral culpability if not legal liability.

And "Act of God" means that you couldn't make the property owner plant a replacement tree.

Dr. Ed said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

my theory is that Larry fears for his family's safety if he doesn't post Ed's comments...

Anonymous said...

Agreed, that's why I'm staying anonymous. I have no idea what kind of wrath I'd bring upon myself by saying Ed needs to enjoy life a bit, the world isn't perfect.

Dr. Ed said...

I am not ashamed of who I am.

Anonymous said...

No one said you should be Ed, we're just asking that you tone it down a bit. Before posting re-read your comment and eliminate the un-needed negativety. Your often relevant and good points get lost in the ranting.