Hurricane leaves its signature in area amid trail of fallen trees

Public works officer says cleanup of roads, parks in city almost completed

September 23, 1999|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

Hurricane Floyd, which lumbered up the East Coast and hit Maryland hard a week ago, left a whirlwind signature on Baltimore's tree line.

About 750 trees fell in the city's streets, mostly in northeast and northwest neighborhoods, which have the most densely wooded areas, city officials said.

At the Cylburn Arboretum, a gaping hole was opened in the park's canopy by the loss of a 150-year-old red oak and a 75-year-old beech which were split by gale- force winds. The pair, which stood next to each other, were both between 70 and 80 feet high.

In state parks such as Gunpowder Falls, Patapsco, and Susquehanna, rangers are turning to the public to help clear hundreds of trees blocking trail systems.

Fallen trees caused more than blocked roads from Catonsville to Harford Road. Thirty-five city homes were hit by trees, city officials said.

"It's pretty amazing to see so many dead trees down," said Tiffany Cox, a city-employed arboretum naturalist, gesturing to a wildflower patch disturbed by the two trees that had fallen there. "It leaves a humongous opening in the canopy. Now you see the blue sky. It makes a big transitional stage for the forest."

Cox said although the arboretum will not replant or replace the fallen trees, saplings will grow in their spaces. "Now that the canopy's opened, they can grow and flourish," she said.

Across North Baltimore, the falling of oaks about as old as their turn-of-the-century neighborhoods left residents from Roland Park to the houses under City College High School towers in awe.

At the College of Notre Dame of Maryland campus on North Charles Street, students and faculty counted eight white oaks on the ground.

Major city streets, such as St. Paul Street, were cleared of trees within hours of the hurricane's strike, city officials said. Kurt Kocher, city public works spokesman, said the effort to clean up fallen trees continues and should be completed this week.

On Stratford Road near Guilford's Sherwood Gardens, neighbors gathered to witness the grandeur of a fallen oak that just grazed the house across the street. On the streets around Schneider's Hardware store on Wyndhurst Avenue, toppled trees became conversation pieces.

In Mount Washington, traffic on Cross Country Road was blocked by a large tree. On Walther Boulevard near Moravia Road, two large sycamores fell, their roots pulling up the sidewalks. Other tree-blocked intersections were at 32nd Street and Falls Cliff Road, East 36th Street and Windsor Avenue, and Franklintown Road and Wymans Way.

George Balog, the city's public works director, said workers on overtime had removed all but 150 trees, mostly in parks, by yesterday. Tree damage estimates for houses, vehicles and public property were not available.

So many trees falling in a day is unusual, but not unheard of in Baltimore. Balog said Hurricane Agnes, which struck in 1972, dealt the city even more dramatic damage.

Many of the trees felled last week -- mostly oaks, beeches and tulip poplars -- appeared to be in good health. Some may have been weakened by the summer drought, but a soaking rain hours before Floyd arrived set the stage for the furious wind gusts to take down hundreds of trees.

Other counties were forced to clean up streets as well. Baltimore County spent $200,000 to clean up 230 trees that fell on roads, officials there said. Harford County officials said 524 trees fell on roads, requiring about 1,600 volunteers and government workers to help clear the debris.

Howard County officials said much of the Floyd-caused tree damage -- concentrated east of Ellicott City through Elkridge -- had been removed, with cleanup expected to be finished next week.

In the region's state parks, Gunpowder Falls and Susquehanna lost hundreds of trees on miles of hiking trails during the hurricane, said state parks spokeswoman Susan O'Brien.

The Patapsco Valley State Park, made up of 14,000 acres in Baltimore, Howard and Carroll counties, reported 40 trees down on the road system. To clear the debris and destruction, O'Brien said, park officials plan to step up trail workshops.

"Not only do we welcome the volunteers, but we also train them," O'Brien said.

Sun staff writers Dennis O'Brien, Lisa Respers, Larry Carson and Tim Craig contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 9/23/99

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