Storms

Major Storms that Felled Significant Numbers of Trees in Plummer’s Hollow Since 1971

March 30-31, 1974. An ice storm that changed to heavy, wet snow brought down hundreds of trees, mostly black cherries, on Sapsucker Ridge. It also dropped several large trees in the hollow across the road. The destruction stretched from the property line with Margaret for 1500 feet above the upper edge of First Field. Some trees were broken or brought down by the ice, but many others were not–a thinning, only. Openings were filled with more black cherry or with striped or red maple.

June 22, 1981. A tornado, or downburst, occurred in one spot in the hollow while we were in the western U.S. on a family camping trip across the continent. Forrest Kellog, our house-sitter, reported that a furious thunderstorm occurred that evening. Almost all the trees in an area perhaps 300 feet by 400 feet were blown down, all in the same direction–downslope toward and across the stream. The destruction occurred on the Laurel Ridge side of the hollow at the first pulloff coming up the hollow. Hemlock trees were the only ones left standing. The first invasion of tree-of-heaven or ailanthus, seeding from the railroad right-of-way, took hold in the opening created by this downburst.

December 9-10, 1992. Twenty-four inches of very wet snow with the ground still unfrozen brought down well over a hundred trees in deepest, wetest part of the hollow; 95 trees large enough to need chainsawing blocked the road. The largest white pine in the hollow — 36 inches diameter at breast height, and 117 years old — came down, as well as a few large hemlocks. Most of the trees brought down were hardwoods, particularly oaks. Numerous trees growing on the stream side of the road ripped out the bank and part of the road as they came down, and the stumps and root balls of a number that had grown on the upper road bank came to rest directly in the road. A 12-ton articulating front end loader was needed to clear the road a week after New Year’s. Winter wrens, attracted to the downed logs, bred in the hollow the following summer for the first time since we began keeping records, and have been a breeding species here most years since. Many of the openings created by this storm filled in with native species such as cucumber magnolia and tulip poplar, but some were filled by Norway maple and a few, browsed down by the deer, have yet to fill in.

September 19, 2003. Strong winds from the remnants of Hurricane Isabel felled dozens of large oaks, tulip poplars, and other hardwoods in the lower third of the hollow, resulting in 30 percent canopy loss or greater over about ten acres, beginning above the road near the top of the first hill. It took many hours of chainsaw work and the help of some of our hunter friends to clear the road. Worried about the erosion and soil fertility on the steep mountina slopes (where we had harvested a certain amount of firewood in the past), and about the easy access of deer to new seedlings, we let most of the fallen trees lie.

January 6, 2005. An ice storm devastated the southeast slopes of Sapsucker Ridge and other areas where brittle trees such as black cherry, red maple, black locust and black birch predominated. A couple hundred acres were affected to one degree or another, with canopy loss approaching 80 or 90 percent in some areas that had had continuous cover. Much of the fifteen-year-old pole timber that grew up after the clearcut on the former McHugh tract was flattened (although much of it had been short-lived striped maple and ailanthus). Tellingly, longer-lived species such as red, white and chestnut oaks, white pine, eastern hemlock and tulip poplar were hardly affected. As usual, our hunter friends provided invaluable assistance with trail-clearing. Two years later, we are seeing seedlings of native species such as sassafras and Hrecules-club coming in, and are looking forward to several years of bumper blackberry crops, now that the deer numbers are down low enough to allow the canes to bear fruit.

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