Random Thursday: The Storm Damage Edition

Photo - Sunrise in Horseshoe Bay, Texas

We had some pretty serious storms speed through the Hill Country last Friday. There were reports of tornados and straight line winds approaching hurricane speeds, and there was a fair amount of damage to trees and buildings. I visited with one person on Tuesday who said he had more than $500,000 of damage to his home on the lake…mostly blown out windows and huge sliding glass doors.

Casa Fire Ant didn’t sustain damage that serious, but a couple of our big trees took a beating. Our first look on Saturday morning was in the back yard, and we were relieved to see that only a few medium sized branches had broken off our pecan trees, plus, we had almost 2 1/2 inches of rain in the gauge and the creek was audibly happy.

Photo: Rain gauge with 2 1/2" of water
This increased our year-to-date rainfall total by more than 30%.
Photo: Rushing water through the creek's spillway
We love hearing the creek from our back yard.
Photo - broken tree branches and fallen leaves on our back porch after a storm
It was a mess, but not a disaster.

However, there was a much different scene in the front of our house:

Photo: Two piles of broken cedar elm limbs in our front yard
It was a mess…
Photo: Huge pile of downed cedar elm and pecan tree limbs in our front yard
…and also a bit of a disaster. Debbie is posing to add scale to the scene.

A huge limb had snapped off the cedar elm directly in front of the gate to our courtyard, and on its way down, it took out a sizable limb from an adjacent pecan tree.

Photo: Another view of the downed limbs
You can see where the limb broke off the main trunk of the cedar elm.

While we were disappointed, we weren’t surprised. We have two sizable cedar elms in the front yard, and both of them have sustained significant damage during storms over the past few years. They seem to be very brittle trees, especially when they get as old as these are. Fortunately, none of our live oaks or pecan trees were damaged, other than the one collateral victim.

Having been through this before, we knew what came next: work clothes and boots, chainsaw and rakes, sweat and fatigue. My EGO chainsaw performed admirably and following four hours of careful cutting — the main limb was precariously balanced on another tree and posed a danger to us if we cut in the wrong place at the wrong time — this was the result:

Photo: Big pile of cut limbs stacked in our driveway for pick up and disposal
This pile of cut limbs was 20′ long by 6′ wide by 6′ tall.

The precariously balanced limb had us quite worried, so much so that I finally decided to pull it down rather than saw it and hope it fell in the right direction. Debbie brought the golf cart out of the garage and parked it in the driveway. I wrapped a tie down strap around the threatening limb and attached it to the hitch receiver on the cart (What? You don’t have a hitch receiver on your golf cart?), and gently eased the cart forward until the limb came crashing down. The plan worked perfectly and I was able to finish the job.

It took another two hours to get the yard raked and three heavy duty lawn trash bags filled with the leaves and small branches left by the storm.

We were fortunate to be able to get someone out almost immediately to look at the damage, and come up with a plan for what was left of the trees. The crew returned on Monday morning and within a couple of hours had the pile of limbs trailered, and the trees cleaned up.

Photo: Damaged cedar elm viewed from our house
This is a look at the damaged tree from our house, and before the tree service folks arrived, and…
Photo: Cedar elm and pecan tree after clean up by tree service crew
…this is the view from the street after the tree service crew finished their work.

I’m pretty sure this is a temporary fix and that we’ll eventually have the entire cedar elm removed. That will leave a big hole in our front landscape, but it’s probably the right move.

Ours weren’t the only trees in the neighborhood to sustain damage. The following photo shows a huge tree (of unknown species) that was growing next to our neighborhood walking trail and which was completely uprooted.

Photo: Uprooted tree in Horseshoe Bay, Texas

The scale may be a little deceiving, so I parked our golf cart next to the base to show just how massive this tree is:

Photo: Golf cart parked next to the base of an uprooted tree

And here’s a closeup of the root ball:

Photo: Base of the uprooted tree

Our neighborhood’s landscape crew spent several hours chainsawing the downed tree enough to clear the path for walkers, but the biggest parts of the trunk and major limbs seem to have them — are you ready? — stumped. I’m pretty sure they’re gonna need a bigger chainsaw to get through the base of the trunk.

In an attempt to make lemonade out of whatever lemonade is made of, there’s was an upside to this sad affair in the form of some really beautiful exposed wood. I managed to grab a couple of cross sections from the early work, and here’s what I’m referring to:

Photo: Cross section of downed tree revealing a beautiful pattern

Isn’t that an amazing bit of natural artwork? I’m contemplating trying to cut some thin cross sections and try to turn them into…something? Any ideas? Well, any ideas that a woodworking noob like me could actually accomplish?

There was, however, some really sad outcomes from the storm. Alert Gazette readers will recall that I’ve been tracking the progress of the red-tailed hawk nest a couple of blocks down the street. The last photo I had posted of the nest showed a hawk guarding two eggs. Then, on May 3rd — two days before the storm — I captured the following photo showing a new hatchling next to the remaining unhatched egg. I was excited at the prospect of observing the life cycle of these great raptors.

Photo: Adult red-tailed hawk in nest next to tiny hatchling and one unhatched egg

Well, the only limb that snapped off that tree during the storm was the one holding the nest. Debbie and I searched the ground around the upside down nest (shown below) and found no sign of either the hatchling or the egg. Is it too much to hope that the adults somehow rescued the chick before the nest came down? My head says “yes,” but my heart is hopeful.

Photo: Downed hawk nest following a storm
It’s difficult to make out but this is the hawk nest in the limb on the ground.

In the end, no human lives were lost or even injured, as far as I know, and we got some beneficial rainfall. Our neighborhood was spared from the worst of the storms and we’re grateful for that mercy. Things could have been much worse, like, for example, I might have been “resting” in this…

Photo: Portable toilet lying on its side following a wind storm
Oh, the humanity!

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  1. Please send the rain on further south to Kerrville/Rocksprings area next time. We received only 0,3” of rain from last storm.

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