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Oregon’s old Sitka snaps in coastal storm

December 3, 2007

broken sitka spruceOne of Oregon’s treasures, the largest tree in the state at 750 feet tall and 17 feet wide, the Kloochy creek Sitka, has met its fate in today’s coastal storm. It was snapped at about 75 feet from its base. The tree will die. I wrote about the tree last year, wondering if and when it would die, not really thinking it would happen like this.

Here are some details about the Sitka and the storm that felled it:

Forester Paul Ries of the Oregon Department of Forestry said the spruce had been damaged a year ago and appears to have snapped about 75 feet from the ground, about as he and his colleagues expected, and had lost much of its foliage.

“The tree will now die,” he said. “It’s a sad event, but not unexpected. It’s part of the natural cycle of the tree.”

The tree shared co-champion status with a tree in Olympic National Park in Washington as the nation’s largest Sitka spruce, based on height, trunk circumference and crown spread.

On the southern part of the coast, winds were gusting to 80 mph, knocking down trees, but most roads remained open, said Deputy Kim Wood of Curry County.

Still, “we’re telling everybody to stay home if they can,” she said.

My partner and I spent the weekend at Nye Beach in Newport, and we left just in time on Sunday morning. We wanted to drive up 101 for the views and to stop in Manzanita, another favorite spot, for lunch and bookstore browsing but the rain and wind were too much for us to bear. It sounds as though the storm has a second wave coming later today:

Wind gusts to 100 mph were reported along the Oregon coast, with the highest reading at 129 mph at Bay City, the National Weather Service. It said gusts hit 81 mph at Hoquiam, Wash.

A second blast expected later Monday could be the strongest storm coming ashore since 1999, weather service meteorologists said, issuing issued the region’s first warning for hurricane-force wind.

The first wave of severe weather in the Northwest was expected to reach the Upper Midwest with snow on Tuesday, the weather service in Minneapolis said. That region was battered by an ice and snow storm Saturday.

Most major roads in southwest Washington’s Grays Harbor and Pacific counties were closed, and at one point early Monday nearly every road into Aberdeen was closed.

“In 30 years of law enforcement, it’s as bad as I’ve ever seen,” said Grays Harbor County Sheriff Michael J. Whelan, whose own truck was smashed in his driveway by a falling tree.

KATU News has video coverage of the broken Sitka here. Click on the video link and it will pop up for you to see.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 3, 2007 6:18 pm

    Hey–when’d you switch the look? Yeah, the loss of the old soul was a big one. I mourn.

  2. December 4, 2007 8:11 am

    “Old soul” is just the phrase I used myself when I heard the tree was down.
    I am grieving, too, taking it oddly personally. Perhaps my feelings are connected to other grief and losses I have endured recently. It’s like saying goodbye to an old friend. Again.

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