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Landscape losers, wind-firm winners

These are Laura survivors (Photo by Keith Hawkins)
Figure 1: Crape myrtles

DERIDDER — Many in Louisiana will remember Aug. 27, 2020, as a day of infamy because Laura made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane. AHA experienced the power outage at approximately 1 a.m. and then the eye of Laura at about 5 a.m. When it was safe to go out, residents saw how the landscape was devastated. With regards to trees (mostly) in DeRidder, here are the landscape losers & wind-firm winners from hurricane Laura.

WINNER: ‘Natchez’ crape myrtle. These crape myrtle trees had an eastern exposure to the heavy winds from Laura and are still standing. These trees also have no obvious branch damage from the force of hurricane winds. Apparently, these trees are winners due to their wind-firmness. (Figure 1)

These lacebark elms failed at the roots due to the recent hurricane. (Photo by Keith Hawkins)
Figure 2: Lacebark elms

LOSER: Lacebark elm. These lacebark elms are north of the crape myrtles, and their roots failed. In fairness to these elms, these trees may not have been planted properly. Lacebark elms are still attractive landscape trees because of the unique bark pattern and deserve a look when choosing landscape trees. (Figure 2)

WINNER: Chinese pistache tree. This solitary Chinese pistache tree is in an open area without any protection, and it is still standing tall. This tree is well behaved in that it tends to be non-invasive, and it is an attractive shade tree with a nice fall color.

WINNER: Vinca planter. These flowers are vincas in a heavy planter. This planter is meant to stay in place. However, the force of Laura’s wind displaced the planter to the position shown in the photo, and it is obstructing a sidewalk in two directions. The flowers survived the winds very well and handled the storm event better than many trees.

DOUBLE LOSER: Bradford pear. Bradford pear trees are notoriously infamous for poor branches angles that enable frequent splitting of the trunks. In this image, there is an old wound from an earlier and a recent wound by Laura.

TRIPLE WINNERS: Live oak, baldcypress & holly shrub. All these plants endured the eastern winds of Laura and look good as if nothing happened. Live oaks and baldcypress tend to be very wind-firm.

WINNER & LOSER: Live oak. Cynthia in Ragley, LA sent images of a live oak and asked if it is salvageable. This live oak is further south than the live oak shown above so the winds were stronger in that part of the parish. AHA thinks this tree is worth saving even though it is much worse for wear. Lives oaks are highly valued, and this tree poses no hazard to structures, fences, or other improvements. This live oak is a winner because it still stands but is a loser due to the loss of large branches.

MEGA LOSERS: Pine trees.Some of the biggest losers of Laura’s fury are the many, many acres of pines trees in landscapes and in timber stands. The pine in the image below suffered failure in its trunk while other pines failed at the roots like the lacebark trees mentioned in this article. A recent article from the LSU AgCenter,Hurricane Laura causes extensive damage to the La. timber industry,makes this observation, “ ’Southwest Louisiana has some of the most productive forests in the United States, and early estimates indicate Laura led to timber losses comparable to what Louisiana lost in hurricanes Katrina and Rita combined,’ Blazier said.” Another later AgCenter publication,Preliminary Estimates of the Impact of Hurricane Laura to the Louisiana Timber Industry,there were a total of 757,538 acres of timber damage through out the path of Laura. The economic damage to timber is estimated to be $1,114,502,632. These numbers do not include the loss of landscape trees.


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