Wild West Windstorm in Los Angeles Destroys More than 450 Trees

Windbent tree© R. Cruger
- Wind-bent tree from Pasadena windstorm.

Known for the greenest tree canopy in the Los Angeles area, my home town of Pasadena was the epicenter of last week's infamous Santa Ana windstorms causing urban deforestation overnight.

I battened down the hatches and tried to reassure my nervous animals (and myself) that it would soon pass. It was like being back in Miami during Hurricane Wilma. Though just a Category One (74–95 mph) storm, the freakish wind whipped the region for 10 relentless hours.

My windows kept blowing open from the force of the “devil winds,” as they’re called. By 8 a.m. the next morning the sound of chainsaws and wood chippers replaced the howling and cracked tree branches flying through the air. Within a two-block walk I witnessed the wreckage: sidewalks impassable with downed century-old trees, cars crushed by fallen magnolia limbs, buildings smashed by towering eucalyptus, and the local park filled with uprooted trees, bent and broken branches.

Fallen tree from windstorm© R. Cruger
- My local bank hit by an upended eucalyptus.

The headlines showed images of overturned trucks and houses damaged by century-old trees. Power outages effected hundreds of thousands of residents, like the East Coast hurricane had a couple months ago.

Nearby friends haven’t had power since Wednesday night and don’t expect the electricity to return until Monday. Curbs are stacked with large branches of magnolia, oaks and pines, as well as the ubiquitous far-too-thirsty fire-hazard - eucalyptus. Roof tiles are strewn across lawns. Downtown along Green Street, which had been lined with old Ficus trees, stacks of logs from uprooted trees line sidewalks upended from uprooted tree trunks.

A Better Way to Recycle Wood Waste?

Uprooted trees in park© R. Cruger
- Park trees snapped and broken await clean-up.

What happens to all the piles of debris? As people clean up from the windstorm, crews haul wood away and raise power lines, trying to keep up with the more than 450 destroyed trees.

The city normally turns fallen trees into mulch and chops it into firewood -- but they can’t keep up. The county will make tree disposal free at drop off locations. There seems to be a hurry to clear it all away, no doubt because of the dangers but also perhaps because it's disturbing to see these beautiful old trees dead.

Fallen tree after windstorm© R.Cruger
- My sidewalk impassible from a old-growth magnolia - one of 450 trees fallen.

As freakish as this event is, I wish a better way to recycle the wood waste was in place, such as cellulosic ethanol and biochar and bio-oil.

Free Pine Wood Offered on Craigslist

Collecting the leaves for compost just scratches the surface. Considering the extent of the clean-up, it will take weeks and months. Today a posting on Craigslist offered pine logs from 2 large trees that fell in the storm....sitting on the street. Take all you want. I expect more of those notices will be posted.

Elsewhere, around the world this week, there were other extreme weather occurrences. In Thailand, severe flooding continued. Scotland got hit too with record rains. Other places, from the Balkans to northern Mexico, are affected by severe drought instead.

In November alone, Treehugger reported more than three stories (see below) about the link between extreme weather and global warming - at a cost of $35 billion this year. And more winds are expected.

Is it time for wind turbines in LA?

More on Extreme Weather
How Extreme Weather Increases With Global Warming - The Basic Version
Climate Change Likely Already Causing More Extreme Weather
It Is "Virtually Certain" That Climate Change is Causing More Extreme Weather

Wild West Windstorm in Los Angeles Destroys More than 450 Trees
A freak windstorm makes clearing out tree waste a challenge -- but some savvy residents are offering the wood on Craisglist for free to the savvy builder.

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