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Ice Storm Takes a Toll on Oklahoma Trees

Weather: In a state where trees are heritage, the damage cuts residents to the quick and may forever scar the land.

February 18, 2002|STEPHANIE SIMON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"I was in the house just a-ducking and a-dodging. All that crashing made the whole house shake," Kingfisher resident Betty Tisdale recalled. "I kept thinking: 'There goes another one. And another one.' "

When she emerged to check the damage, she had lost 19 trees. Her yard now looks like it's ready for a competition in chain saw art. The squirrels are so bewildered, Tisdale throws them pecans out of pity.

Arborists are warning property owners not to rush to chop; even if just 30% of a tree's branches are intact, it has a shot at surviving. But the older trees likely will die. And experts are urging removal of specimens that are not well suited to Oklahoma's climate, such as Bradford pears and Siberian elms.

Even those trees that make it will look mighty ragged this summer--and for several summers to come.

Down at Memory Lane, planted in the 1950s along the road leading to the cemetery to pay homage to World War II veterans, virtually every tree lost its crown. Limbs 14 feet long litter the grass. Raw branches, stripped of bark, poke up from trunks helter-skelter. The mile-long strip of trees looks downright spooky.

"It's quite a shock to see what we've got left," said Eldon Trindle, 80, who helps maintain the grove. "You just don't have much of a fight against Mother Nature when she's going that way."

Keith Boevers, an agricultural advisor with Oklahoma State University, can only agree.

"It's sickening. One weather event ruins all the time and effort that's been invested in these trees since the land run of 1889," he said. Then he straightened. "You just have to step back, regroup and replant," he said.

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