Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Strength in the storm... and serendipity

The sounds of chainsaws fill the air in my east Memphis neighborhood.

Yesterday, Mother Nature put on quite a display of destructive force in my part of the city... and today is a day for clean up. 

Memphis is a city filled with many large trees. Many first time visitors to the city are taken aback by the urban forest found in our more established neighborhoods. In the wake of destruction we often hear news reporters refer to them as "hundred year old" trees, but realistically most of them are not that old. Most of the older ones in my neighborhood are closer to fifty... a few may be sixty. The houses in my area were built in the early to mid 1950s, and the trees were planted after the subdivisions were developed. There was no such thing as a "conservation subdivision" in the 1950s.

You may have seen some of the storm damage that occurred in the region on national news broadcasts, but they really haven't shown much from what I've seen. No tornado did this, at least not in my neighborhood, just straight line winds.

The following is just a sampling of the destruction, all within about a mile of my house.

Out of respect for the homeowners, I chose not to photograph some of the more tragic scenes of devastation. The house in the picture above is really minor damage compared to others. There are several houses, all in my neighborhood, that were mostly destroyed by massive oak trees that fell on them.

If it wasn't for the trees, Memphis wouldn't experience such destruction... but the trees are one of the more redeeming qualities of this city for a naturalist. If it weren't for the trees, this place would feel very sterile.

I have two huge Willow Oaks on my property. The trunk of the one in the front yard is approximately three feet in "diameter at breast height" (or DBH in forester lingo). The one in back is just a bit larger at approximately forty-five inches. They're both big enough to crush a house... my house. I feel very fortunate that they stood strong in the winds. I will be hugging a tree today... twice actually... but I don't really consider myself a "tree hugger."

In the midst of the destruction in my neighborhood, a serendipitous survivor emerges...

This mother American Robin (Turdus migratorius) and her nest (probably with eggs), precariously perched in a Pecan tree, somehow survived the storm. How this tiny clump of twigs, grasses, and trash managed to endure gale force winds... I will never know or understand.

You might call it a small miracle... I call it serendipity.


  1. SO glad you came out unscathed. After the front passed through you, it came east and visited us. I live deep in the woods and such storms are always a concern. Seems the winds lost some bite coming across the Smokies and we just got a good scare. If I had not left the truck's sunroof open last night, it would have been a non-event. Perhaps that's what the dog was trying to tell me in the wee hours.

  2. Mike,
    Glad to hear the storm died down before it made it to your neck of the woods. In all of the devastation there was only one fatality in Memphis- an 87 year old man, who accidentally picked up a downed power line while cleaning up debris in his yard, was electrocuted. Most people were at work, and it seems most of the severely damaged houses were unoccupied.
    Sorry your truck got soaked. We had a wee bit of water issues too. The roofing peeled back on my mother's sunroom (she lives right down the road from me), and we had a lot of rain come in before I got it put back in place. No real damage though.
    Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Mother Nature can be a bear sometimes. I know what straight lines winds can do; it is amazing how just wind can rip a huge tree from the ground. Great photo of the robin's nest. Serendipity indeed.


  4. Pretty wicked stuff. When it comes to ice and wind, sometimes trees are too big for their own good.

  5. Stephanie, thanks for the comment. The Robin was just a little nervous with me getting any closer. That photo was the best of about seven I snapped. My advice for getting good photos with digital cameras is to take a whole bunch of pics, and delete all but the one that is decent.

  6. Clif, we've had our fair share of ice storms here too. You'd think eventually all the big trees would be gone... but we've got plenty of them still.

  7. I live in a unique area east of Boulder where the winds whip down the canyon and seem to pick up velocity as it hits the flatland. I had a whole section of fence get thrown across the yard last week and I lose trees every year. Glad you didn't suffer any damage.

  8. Really good to hear that you had no immediate damage. Sorry to hear about those that did. Now the clean up and recovery faces everyone. A couple of years ago, I had a tree fall on my car while parked at a park in the city. Mother Nature does her thing and we all are just left in amazement.

  9. Thanks for the comments, gentlemen.
    Howard, sorry to hear about your fence. I am amazed at how my fence hasn't been blown over. I know it's over twenty years old and should have blown over long ago... that might actually be a miracle.
    Mel, sorry to hear about your car. Too bad it didn't happen while you were parked alongside a river catching the biggest trout of your life. I imagine "parked at a park in the city" was far less memorable... except for the crushed car of course.

  10. looks like a few trees could use a HUG...

  11. Nature will find a way...sometimes we just have to look close enough.

  12. Josh & Pat, thank you for stopping by and your comments.