The snow and ice storms that blanketed Portland, Oregon, and the surrounding area
beginning on New Year's Day, 2004, did an enormous amount of damage to the trees there. At my
location near La Center, WA, we got ten inches of wet snow on January 1 and 2, and an additional
four to six inches of dry powder starting late on Monday, January 5. However, with temperatures in the
and winds gusting well above 30 mph, the actual depth of the blowing powder was
impossible for me to measure.
About mid-afternoon on January 6 a series of warm fronts pushing over the cold air began
dropping first ice pellets, and then rain that froze almost instantly on everything it touched.
By the morning
of the 7th, there was a half-inch thick crust of ice on top of the snow, and every exposed
branch and twig was completely sheathed in ice. It did not take long before
the weight began breaking off limbs, causing them to crash down onto the icy crust
below with loud cracks and booms, accompanied by a cacaphony of tinkling ice chunks.
The alders fared the worst. On many of the younger trees, the trunks just snapped
off a quarter to half-way down. Occasionally a entire alder or big-leaf maple tree would
simply topple over from the weight.
The bombardment continued for a day and a half, and at times the noise was almost
continuous. It sounded like an artillery barrage. The siege effect was compounded by the fact
that we lost power about 2:30 a.m. Thursday morning. So with a single small candle burning in a glass
on the table, we huddled under afghans on the
sofas, (it was almost impossible to sleep) listening to anime music on the portable CD player
and wondering if and when something big was going to come down on the roof.
By mid-morning we decided that it was probably going to be a long time
before the power came back on. (In fact, it took over 34 hours.) We decided to risk
a trip out to the tarp-covered woodpile twenty feet from the house, under some cedar trees.
It took two separate runs to get sufficient wood back to the shelter of the porch to satisfy
me that we weren't going to freeze. We got a bit of a scare just before the second run,
when several pounds of ice shards crashed down onto the snow just a foot from where I
would have been standing.
With the wood stove burning warmly, we spent the afternoon and evening playing Scrabble by
and sleeping. After all, one can only spend so many hours wincing at every crash and boom
before the novelty wears off and it simply becomes background noise.
Power was restored at noon on Friday, January 9. By that time the
temperature had finally crept up above freezing, and the thaw was beginning. We bundled up
in boots and coats and gloves and went out to survey the damage. It was awesome. Nearly every
hardwood tree that we could see had suffered breakage. Many alders were simply lopped off
as if they had been scythed. As we
plowed laboriously thru the ice-covered snow along the gravel drive, I saw at least a half
dozen large trees completely down. I have not yet surveyed
the woods on the rest of the property.
Although there was a good bit of debris littering the bridge, we were extremely
fortunate that no large tree came down across the drive, which runs nearly 800 feet from the
house to the corner of the property. As I write this, we are still waiting for the snow
to melt a bit more so we can get out. (Since we have never had weather quite this bad in the
fifteen years I have lived here, we don't have chains for either car.) But there are already
patches of bare green ground visible in the pasture across the way. We even had sunshine
today for a short while. Spring is coming. Real Soon Now!
This next page shows some of the damage done
by the ice storm. For dial up users, these pictures are smaller and should load faster.
LM January 10, 2004
AFTERWORD: Over the next few months I managed to salvage some alder, maple, ash, and cascara from trees downed or damamged in the storm. I invite you to browse my shop to see some of the woodturnings which I have created from that bounty.