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Posts Tagged ‘Pecan Trees’

On my way to Arkansas for Thanksgiving, I drove through Albany, Georgia, which lay in the path Hurricane Michael had taken only a few weeks before. Although Albany is a hundred miles inland, I saw fallen trees, blue tarps on roofs, and mobile homes that had been destroyed. This is pecan country, and many orchards had lost trees, especially the more mature ones.

When I reached my brother’s home in Alabama, I told him what I’d observed. A pecan farmer himself, he was aware of the destruction. He said that some orchards were so badly damaged, they would not be replanted. Pecan trees take years to mature enough to be productive. Many of the farmers are up in age and have no heirs who are interested in farming.

I thought of the orange groves in Florida. At one time, Highway 27, which takes you through the middle of the peninsula, was a picturesque drive through mile after mile of orange groves. Then came the freeze of 1988 which brought arctic air down into tropical South Florida. Orange trees can’t take such temperatures. All that was left were hills covered with brown stumps. Most groves were not replanted. The scenic countryside was carved up into housing developments, acre after acre of concrete block, cookie cutter homes. I’m sure this brought instant wealth to the former grove owners, but the beautiful scenery had been spoiled. If the orange trees had been replanted, they would have been producing for many years by now.

Chipola River Park, November 2017

After Thanksgiving, I took a more southerly route home, following Route 20 through the forests of Florida’s panhandle. My first clue that I was approaching Michael’s wake was road crews cutting up and removing tree trunks alongside the road. Then I entered Bay County, which had been hit directly by the Category 4 storm.

I had seen pictures of Michael’s destruction: debris everywhere, houses leveled, people left homeless and destitute, but I didn’t take the coastal route to witness this for myself. For one thing, I was anxious to get home. For another, curiosity seekers only get in the way of recovery efforts. Twenty or so miles inland, there was more than enough for me to see.

Picnic area

 

 

Hurricanes being circular, their winds can come from any direction depending on where you are in relation to the eye. The west side of the storm is the worst. Winds up to 155 mph had slammed into the woodlands from the north, laying trees down in a southerly direction. Entire stands of forest were leveled, trees broken off or uprooted. I can only imagine the condition of the highway immediately after the storm. Weeks later it was still lined with piles of wood and branches, twisted pieces of metal roofing, mangled insulation, and other barely recognizable wreckage. How much time and effort went into clearing the roadway so help could come to survivors?

It was like this everywhere.

Some houses were damaged beyond hope. Many were roofed with blue tarps. A few homeowners had brought in sheds to use as temporary residences. Too many people had been displaced. They had nowhere else to go.

New home for Hurricane Michael victims.

As I approached the Chipola River, the destruction became personal. On the bank is a wayside park with a boat ramp. Whenever I travel this route, I stop to use the restroom and stretch my legs. I’ve walked along the river bank, taking pictures of flowers. In the wetland between the river and the picnic grounds, were ancient trees that I’ve photographed. The park is a friendly place where other travelers stop to rest and fishermen launch their boats. The last time I was there, a family with young children parked next to me after they pulled their boat out of the water.

Chipola River, November 2017

This time I hardly recognized the place. The formerly shady picnic grounds were buried beneath a tangle of ruined trees. The driveway and parking lot had been cleared enough for me to drive in, with caution, but I was the only visitor. The river was high, several feet above the boat ramp, and fishermen couldn’t put in, if indeed they had time to spare from repairing their homes. I couldn’t stroll along the river bank. Instead, I picked my way through the park, mourning the lost trees.

Boat ramp November 2018.

Millions of acres of forest in the Florida Panhandle were seriously damaged by Michael. The economic loss in timber alone is estimated at over a billion dollars. This doesn’t include the loss of jobs, property, and other considerations. Some stands were owned by individuals who were counting on the sale of their timber for retirement. What will they do now?

 

My Garden Club collects loose change at every meeting which we donate to Penny Pines, a project of National Garden Clubs and other organizations. Every $68 we collect is used to replant an area of National Forest that has been destroyed by fire, disease, or other catastrophe. It looks like we have our work cut out for us.

Several miles down the road, I crossed the Apalachicola River into Bristol. Along the way I’d seen signs telling survivors where they could obtain hurricane relief. When I saw crowds in the town’s parking lots, I thought at first that was what they were doing, but as I drove along, it became apparent something else was happening. Families lined the street as though waiting for a parade. A Christmas parade?

Two thoughts crossed my mind. I was glad to get through town before the street was closed. More important, I was touched to see these folks celebrating despite all they had suffered in the past two months. The human spirit is indomitable. Maybe I should have stayed to watch the parade.

Resurrection Fern survives–a sign of hope?

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