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Plant Focus

Quercus macdougallii
A rare oak endemic to the Sierra Juárez in Oaxaca

Ice Storm Hits Aiken

Yesterday we received an alarming email from Bob McCartney informing of the terrible ice storm that hit Aiken last week. This is how the event is described on the Woodlanders Inc. website: 


Aiken and the Central Savannah River Area were the bull's-eye for the record ice storm which struck the area on February 12 and 13.  The damage from downed trees and power lines in Aiken was catastrophic.  Roads throughout the area and many streets in Aiken were blocked by downed trees and huge limbs.  There was heavy damage at the nursery to two greenhouses and downed trees and limbs were everywhere.  Despite much effort over the past few days it will be a while before the place is cleaned up and things are back to normal.  Friday night, in the midst of the chaos, we had an earthquake centered in adjacent Edgefield County.

Fortunately, Bob's large collection of oaks was not affected, presumably because the trees are still young and supple enough to take the extra weight, and not so large that the weight is more than even a young oak could handle.

Those of us who participated in the Aiken Oak Open Days last November were fortunate to see some of the trees that have now been severely damaged or have been felled by the ice, such as this one on Colleton Avenue:

Colleton Avenue and Sumter Street. (Photo by Ben Baugh, Aiken Evening Standard)

This is how Bob described it:

Glad we got some of the IOS folks here in November and for any who might come now they can perhaps imagine what Aiken looked like!  Actually most of "my" oaks are OK but they were young and strong. A lot of big oaks are now good for only firewood ! 

Our newsletter editor, Ryan Russell, a professional arborist, was more sanguine. As he said in answer to Bob:

Hard to really get a good handle on the damage, but from the photos it doesn't look too bad. I say that, knowing those of you that live in warmer climates may think I'm crazy, but if care is taken, in a few years, you'll never know it happened. We had two bad ice storms roll through in southern Missouri about 5-6 years ago that I had to go help with. Mature oaks, pines etc. were toppled and the sweetgums and maples looked like a giant smashed every limb off. Some were obvious removals, but others, although they looked pretty bad were pruned back to live tissue. I drive through these towns now and it's hard to tell. I can see it, but I know where to look. We had miles of electric poles snapped off at the base, for several counties. Three to 5 years and you'll never know. I just hope the officials will not jump to a hasty decision and cut down every tree that "looks" bad. 

Let´s hope he is right. For more pictures of the damage, you can go through a picture gallery published on the Aiken Standard. There's duplicate pictures and plenty of ones of cars lining up for fuel, but there are also many of photographs that will give you an idea of what went down in Aiken, such as the one below:

Powderhouse Road near College Acres, covered in debris Thursday morning after the ice storm moved through. (Photo by Amy Banton, Aiken Standard)

You can view pictures of last November's Oak Open Days at Aiken in our photo gallery and read Ryan's report of the event here.