October Storm Wreaks Havoc on Campus Trees

Parents Weekend on the Circle often has many people watching the weather closely. Will it be cold, will it be rainy, and will the games be played? Rarely are we concerned about snow, but snow was what was forecast this year and it arrived with full fury on Saturday afternoon and continued through the night. The story is well-known from news reports highlighting power outages up and down the Northeast Corridor. On Sunday when the sun rose over the Circle, the effect was beautiful and sobering. The campus was both white and dark, with generators supplying electricity and heat to the dormitories, the Dining Hall running only on gas, preventing them from making anything but the most basic of breakfasts and no hot coffee or tea to be had, and most faculty homes without heat or electricity. A spirit of adventure bolstered the community for a little while. Sunday Chapel went off without a hitch, although at one point a generator in the basement was clearly working hard and could be heard rumbling under the Choir’s anthem.

The snow, wet and heavy, attached itself to trees, many still in full leaf and just beginning to succumb to the seasonal imperative of leaves to fall. Thus scores of trees around the campus were burdened with weight they could not bear and simply snapped. The damage was breathtaking. Huge limbs torn from the tree in the courtyard of Brooks House, great trees split down the middle unsalvageable, and countless smaller trees with their tops hanging limply from strips of bark. Few trees escaped unscathed.

Power was restored over the course of the next week, but Groton had to wait for our regular tree company to be released from pressing issues around the state. In the meantime, the Deans Office managed to corral a number of students to fan out across the campus to help move smaller limbs and branches to locations near paths and roadways. At one point the island in front of the Athletic Center looked like the prop staging area for an outdoor performance of Macbeth, with branches lined up just so in preparation for Birnam Wood to be on the march.

Once the tree company arrived, they quickly went to work grinding and chopping up pile after pile of debris. Midway through their second day they had already filled 12 dump trucks with chippings and were expecting to add six to eight additional loads before daylight ran out. Some ancient and well–loved trees may be rehabilitated, but a number will have to be removed, and we will all have to wait until spring to see which of the other splintered trees survive the winter. Snow in October was certainly an adventure, but one for which the trees on the Circle paid a heavy price.

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