Stripped bare by the swirling wind — as if ravaged by wildfire — their remains stand sentinel over a wasteland, with the unnatural leaf litter of a residential neighborhood spread below them. In some, debris is perched in jagged branches like vultures.
The trees that surrendered to the winds of more than 200 miles per hour became weapons of destruction, the trunks crumpling cars and houses and the branches sailing off as missiles. In the aftermath they became obstacles, blocking roads and complicating recovery efforts with the weight of their many years until they were broken by chain saws, to be hauled away and burned in massive pyres on the outskirts of town.
The established urban canopy was one of the charms of Joplin, a shady reminder of the old-growth forest that was here before the discovery of the lead deep beneath their roots that led to the settling of the city. In the old neighborhood around Cunningham Park, the passage of time had worn the century-old homes but swelled the trees that shaded the streets, lending an upscale air to a modest neighborhood of blue-collar workers.
Those still standing, too damaged to survive, will have to be cut down. “That’s part of the tragedy, too,” said Brad Belk, director of the Joplin Museum Complex. “Not only did we lose lives, home and businesses, but we lost our green spaces.”
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Tree damage in Joplin tornado described in New York Times story
a story in today's New York Times: