January 21, 2023

"I couldn’t really picture that weight. It’s like five circus elephants. Or 50-something grand pianos."

"It was a beautiful tree, it really was, but I kind of have a difficult feeling about it right now."

Said Eben Burgoon, after a 65,000-pound redwood fell on his house, quoted in "Trees were a California city’s salvation. Now they’re a grave threat" (WaPo).

Sacramento was once called "the 'city of Plains' because of its treeless vistas," but it became "The City of Trees" after the humans worked to develop a lush, shady canopy. But:

Stressed from years of severe drought, tree roots naturally die back. When this is followed by day after day of big storms and the soil becomes saturated, the weakened roots fail as anchors. Trees whose roots have already been damaged by construction, such as fresh concrete sidewalks being laid down, are especially at risk of collapse. So are trees with shallow roots that rely on sprinklers for irrigation.

During the recent storms, the Sacramento Tree Foundation found that wind direction compounded the problem. In the city and the surrounding suburbs, trees are accustomed to dealing with winds from the south, and they have built-in defenses. But when strong northerly winds arrived on New Year’s Eve — with gusts that reached more than 60 miles per hour — they pummeled the trees on their most vulnerable side....

Should the city have planted all these trees? Did it make sense at the time and now the wonderful "salvation" has been ruined by climate change or were all these trees always vulnerable to toppling with an unlucky combination of dryness and rain?

I'm trying to understand the use of the word "salvation" in the headline. It doesn't appear in the text of the article. Why are trees "salvation"? If the natural environment of a place is "treeless vistas," why not embrace treeless vistas? If the trees fall, they are falling not to nature but to human folly.

The scientists are suggesting that, instead of "eucalyptus trees, cedars, redwoods, pines, evergreen oaks, Italian cypress and acacias," the fallen trees should be replaced with trees better adapted to the local conditions: "desert willow, netleaf hackberry and the Texas ebony." I had to look up those recommended trees — they all grow only to something like 30 feet. That's not going to give the city the "salvation" of a lush canopy.

72 comments:

Gerda Sprinchorn said...

EVERY tree eventually falls down.

We know a lot about which trees are likely to fall down. So look around at your trees, and if one of them is in danger of falling on your house, cut it down or back.

Duh.

RideSpaceMountain said...

I have a solution. Nuke California. It is the anti-goldilocks state. Nothing is ever 'just right'. It's a land of extremes, a constant see-saw battle between the most outlandish solutions. Always too dry. Or too wet. Always too many trees. Or not enough. Too much feces. No, too clean. Too much open space. They scream they've not enough housing.

It can't be happy. And misery loves company, so CA has decided that we can't be either. Nuke it. I suggested as much to the state legislature, and they said my proposal wasn't environmentally friendly enough. Shocker.

Cappy said...

Nice work, hippies.

Whiskeybum said...

"History shows again and again
How nature points out the folly of men"

Fred Drinkwater said...

Redwoods? Coast redwoods? Maybe they were the slightly more inland variety called Woodside redwood. But whatever, they evolved to live with lots of winter rain and specifically, summer fog. Sacramento is ridiculous. Even here in southwest Silly Valley, conditions are poor for them.

Lem Former Twitter Aficionado said...

Maybe they meant to use ‘salvation’ in a new age kind of way. California is new age heaven.

Temujin said...

If the trees hadn't grown there naturally, you would think the professional arborists would consider why that is. Assuming the city government consulted with any arborists. Maybe they didn't.

I remember living in Atlanta, which is a very lush city- full of trees and green all over. Atlanta gets a pretty good amount of rain during the year- as does the entire Southeast. In Atlanta it was a regular thing to hear about trees toppling after a couple of days of heavy rains. It was not uncommon to hear about a motorist crushed while waiting at a red light. So many trees, some large and aging, some erosion here or there. A heavy rain, some wind, and...

Lazarus said...

California is like Australia? Everything there is trying to kill you: fires, earthquakes, mudslides, mountain lions, drug addicts, trees, taxes.

But at least this could be a chance to find out if what they say about redwoods is true. And is it a real redwood? Do the roots match the branches?

Critter said...

Everything must show a lesson in climate change. Perhaps the people of Sacramento are eating too much beef, or driving too many SUVs. There is probably a workshop in Davos about the problem of Sacramento trees.

Kate said...

As someone who lived in Humboldt Co, the foggiest and wettest place imaginable, I'm highly suspicious of redwoods in Sacramento. Especially since, in southern Arizona, I now have a desert willow in my yard. Those two species have nothing in common.

Incidentally, the willow is lovely. It's not elite like the redwood; just a charming blue collar tree.

The Drill SGT said...

Was raised in Sacramento. The story is hype. Winter rains and flooding happen. Sac is like 16 ft above sea level and 100 miles inland with levees holding its two rivers back in flood season

retail lawyer said...

Coastal Redwoods are from temperate rain forests, the opposite of the Sacto Valley. They also need the wind protection of the surrounding trees, i.e., a forest. But the rule is, "Never fail to blame a crisis on Climate Change.

Patrick Henry was right! said...

No, climate change, did not cause this. Please, show some self respect. You are too smart to be a follower of this cult.

hawkeyedjb said...

In keeping with current style requirements, we re-write portions of the article and (especially) the comments:

"As the climate changes, trees are paying the price, he said without evidence."
"Even some local species cannot survive in the current climate, he said without evidence."
"...add more intense weather systems because of climate change, he said without evidence."
"we need far more [trees] to mitigate climate change, he said without evidence."
"Severe heat, drought and heavy rain, all of which are becoming more extreme because of climate change, are making it more difficult to keep old trees alive, he said without evidence."

One commenter summed up the article and the conversation: Trees lived forever before climate change?

Sebastian said...

"they are falling not to nature but to human folly"

Just one of many cases of "human folly" provided by CA.

Waiting for the Big One, when CA will want the rest of us to bail them out.

WK said...

They had to plant something. “Treeless Vista Estates” is not a picturesque name for a residential development.

Yancey Ward said...

In Oak Ridge, we have lots and lots of very large trees in the residential northside of town which is largely built on the small ridge north of the the larger ridge separating us from the nuclear weapons facilities in the Bethel Valley area- the valley between the two ridges is the commercial area and the multi-family complexes. We lived here for a year when I was 4 years old, and the pictures from that era show the trees were not very prominent at that time since it is probable that the government, when it built the town, clear cut the ridge to build single family homes during the Manhattan Project- but 50+ years of additional growth, and we have beautiful and enormous trees of several varieties. Of course, not a month goes by when one of these trees falls, or breaks off a huge limb damaging a house. Right now, on our neighbor's property is a large tree that, if it ever fell in a windstorm, would likely fall on our home. It looks healthy right now, but who knows.

tcrosse said...

From what one reads, Sacramento is now the City of Tents.

rhhardin said...

Go with elms. Very nice street framing.

tommyesq said...

Should at least get lots of beautiful lumber out of this.

Krumhorn said...

The trees would be doing us a solid if they would manage to inclusively, as a community, unify to collapse upon the state gub’ment buildings…of course, including the legislature. In fact, do that first.

- Krumhorn

Marty said...

As a Sacramentan who lived through the recent weather mayhem, a couple comments. First, it's WaPoo, so consider the source. Second, although many trees did indeed come down, most did not. Come spring, there will still be a lush canopy of green shade all around the town. Further, both public and private entities will plant new trees and these will fill in the gaps of the fallen. Finally, as Gerda sensibly notes, trees around here are always dying and new trees are always sprouting. You can stop clutching your pearls now.

Lloyd W. Robertson said...

I read a bit about palm trees in LA. There was maybe one species of palm there in pioneer days, probably in a bit from the coast. There have been deliberate policies to plant many kinds of palm. Some last only about a hundred years, and become a big problem. The ones that last a long time may be a bigger problem. A palm is designed to suck up water and store it. They don't provide much shade, and they can kill other plants. One brilliant idea was to plant date palms. There was a whole era of postcards showing orange groves in LA. Why not date groves, with a dream of fresh fruit falling at your feet? The climate isn't quite right to ripen the dates, so hard green things fall on you.

Florida has many species of palm. It is really a sand bar, marbled with swamps, between the Atlantic and the Gulf.

Breezy said...

Make lemonade out of lemons, houses or furniture out of fallen trees... Or, never let a crisis go to waste.

chuck said...

Reminds me of the low power tornado that went over my apartment in SLC, didn't so much as disturb the papers inside, but all the trees along the road on the north side came down. I looked at their roots and there were hardly any, just a small ring around the base, they were pretty much just balanced on end. I suspect lack of water and the sidewalk was responsible for that. There were also a bunch of plane trees in the same area that were damaged, but they didn't come down, just lost a lot of branches.

It was all a bit of fun, actually. I had an ax and trimmed branches, the boy scouts showed up with saws, and the ladies set up some tables with snacks. When the city trucks showed up the debris was ready to load.

Gahrie said...

This post is the perfect illustration of something I try to clue the Watermelon activists about all the time. Whenever they start whining about deforestation I inform them:

A) In economically developed countries the vast majority of wood comes from tree farms...trees that are deliberately planted and grown so that they can be cut down and used. Every time a tree is cut down, at least one is planted.

B) There are currently millions of trees growing where they never grew before, How many of the trees growing in say, Phoenix Arizona would be growing there if Phoenix wasn't there?

Iman said...

The trees we saw falling were - with one exception - not redwoods, but some sort of pine. We had a neighbor about a block away from us who had a tree fall on a late model Mercedes Benz and an old Willys jeep that was in perfect condition, both parked in the driveway, along with a portion of his garage roof.

These taunts from shitbirds who find it acceptable to ridicule folks who’ve suffered loss are an indication of a lack of morals and said shitbirds can kiss my Caliunicornian ass.

Birches said...

Concrete sidewalks are killing the trees! Sprinklers are killing the trees! Oh brother on Al the scaremongering. Seventy years ago, people were less indiscriminate about their tree species planting, true, but trees and huge limbs fall down all of the time after sustained rain. Most people don't hire arborists to maintain their trees. It happens.

john mosby said...

Whiskeybum, great BOC reference!

JSM

SteveWe said...

Redwoods are forest trees and should not be planted in urban areas. A solitary redwood is certain to be blown down after 40 years. A Redwood is basically a tall pole with short branches stuck into it. It certainly is not a canopy tree unless it's in a Redwood forest of trees spaced about five yards apart.

Old and slow said...

Interesting that he seems to know the weight of circus elephants and grand pianos offhand. I know that in the US lengths are usually expressed in units of football fields or school busses, and height in statue's of liberty or empire state buildings, but what is the colloquial measure of weight? Volume, of course, is expressed in Olympic swimming pools the world over. But weight, I can't think of anything.

Rusty said...

No matter what you do. Gravity always works.

gilbar said...

the fallen trees should be replaced with trees better adapted to the local conditions:

SOUNDS Like, grasses are better adapted to the local conditions.
But it IS HORRIBLE(!) that evil climate change has made the environment adverse to what used to grow there

Wait a minute, maybe a can phrase that better.
it IS HORRIBLE(!) that the LACK of climate change has made california like it's been, for millennia
An dry desert, that occasionally gets flooding rains and snows.

Wait, that still sounds weird.. how about
MOST of central california can ONLY support vegetation through irrigation. Cali needs MORE dams
There! that's the ticket

Carol said...

Nice work, hippies.

Hippies? Hell, Sacto was like that when we first went there in 1953 to see my cousins. All the trees and the smell of the wet leaves on the ground were heavenly compared to dry and smoggy old LA.

Every place does this, plant trees from back East or Europe that just don't belong, from nostalgia and desire to put up breaks against the unrelenting wind. In half of California it was Eucalyptus from Australia.

Nothing lasts forever.

gilbar said...

Serious Question: are there More, or LESS trees than 100 years ago?

Tom T. said...

I have to wonder whether Sacramento adequately maintains its trees. My mother's suburban city in northern Virginia employs an arborist, and he's always pruning and lopping at the trees at her curb and in the green space behind her house, presumably to justify his job.

TaeJohnDo said...

A large tree the size of a small, giant tree.

The LA Times posted a story just last week that it isn't climate change, but cyclical weather. Who'd a thought?

https://tinyurl.com/7nhyr9u8

Lurker21 said...

Los Angeles is also complaining that the palm trees don't really belong there. The palms, ill-suited to the climate, are dying off and being replaced by other trees. From what little I've been able to find out, the palm trees were planted in Los Angeles from the nineteenth century into the 1930s, when developers and city officials might not have been so knowledgeable about plants and climate, and the Sacramento redwoods where planted later when people should have known better.

But trees don't last forever, even if California's giant sequoias and bristlecone pines are among the oldest trees in the world (their record as the oldest, though, has been challenged by the discovery that some colonies of trees are actually one organism with common roots).

MartyH said...

Hey! There's another Sacramentan named Marty who reads Althouse! What are the odds?

We had a similar windstorm in 2021: https://www.abc10.com/article/syndication/ugc/photos-video-rain-wind-damage-january-storm/103-1b798ce7-ac0c-484e-b952-53b29989e8db

The stories could be interchangeable-fallen trees, blown over big rigs, etc. We had less rain in 2021 but more in 2019, and I am sure I can find a sensational story about all of the flooding then.

I've seen pictures of Discovery Park underwater on national news. It sits at the confluence of the Sacramento and American Rivers. It's supposed to flood-that's why it's a park and not a housing development.

Tradeoffs exist. The trees always cool the city in May, June, July, August and stand a risk of falling in December, January, February.

gilbar said...

Whiskeybum said...
"History shows again and again
How nature points out the folly of men"

There you go! think of The GOOD that could be done, if/when Godzilla attacked Sacramento !
With a purposeful grimace and a terrible sound
He pulls the spitting high-tension wires down
Helpless people on subway trains
Scream, bug-eyed, as he looks in on them
He picks up a bus and he throws it back down
As he wades through the buildings toward the center of town

Look at the things Godzilla HATES! high-tension wires, subway trains, buses.. The centers of towns

Godzilla isn't just a republican, he's a TRUMPIST!!!
MAKE GODZILLA GREAT AGAIN!

Michael K said...

WaPoo and Global Warming/Climate change kind of go together in any story about nature. Kids are growing up terrorized by this nonsense. Some adults are making a lot of money off this scam. I see articles say the earth is still warming, which has not been true for about 20 years. The money is too good to admit it.

n.n said...

Babies... fetuses or adults?

Narr said...

My wife and I chose a home with few big trees in the yard. I dealt with fallen and shattered oaks at home and at Oma's growing up and later, and at our previous house too.

But our neighbors all have large, old trees--mostly oak--and there's a very tall lonely pine between our bedroom end of the house and the neighbor's carport. It's their tree, but as likely to fall on us as them from its narrow place.

Limbs fall on the power lines and sidewalks all the time, and one neighbor's big rotten old oak fell on a new truck and totaled it last year.

Trees are great, but they will turn on you without warning.

Iman said...

“Nothing lasts forever”

First BOC and now Maroon 5!?!?

This place went from the sublime to scat, in nothin’ flat. Gosh dammit, Carol!

Fred Drinkwater said...

Planting eucalyptus in CA...
Terrible idea, except for the tiny decorative "gum" trees. The proliferation of huge eucalyptus in the hills on the east side of SF bay has already caused one major disaster fire, and will cause more. They burn like they've had gasoline poured on them.

Kill them all! ALL OF THEM!

Fred Drinkwater said...

In my youth in the 60s, we fully expected to lose about one tree every two years. But we planted so they wouldn't destroy things when they fell.

Fred Drinkwater said...

Many pine species are popular for landscaping Because they grow fast. But they also die fast. Redwoods require a relatively enormous land area around them, undisturbed and untrafficed, because they have wide, very shallow root systems. I'm talking 7 meters radius for a mature tree. A significant part of a redwood's dry-season water comes from fog captured by foliage and dripped on the ground.

Smilin' Jack said...

This is silly. If you’re going to artificially plant trees, plant artificial trees. They make nice ones these days, and as the enviroweenies say, plastic is forever.

Leora said...

On Long Island oaks are a native tree but they still fall over eventually. If your house is near a large tree you may need to cut it down or some large storm will knock it over or it will fall over by itself. I felt awful cutting down a lovely tree that shaded my deck but it was the right thing to do to protect my home. Here in Florida I have a tree guy check out everything within reach of the house every couple of years.

Ann Althouse said...

"Hey! There's another Sacramentan named Marty who reads Althouse! What are the odds?"

Cool!

Ann Althouse said...

Salvation in Sacramento — sounds so religious.

Iman said...

“Salvation in Sacramento — sounds so religious.”

It’s a trap! Satan’s in Sacramento, hairgel and all.

Enigma said...

California and desert areas have a recurring issue with trees:

1. There's enough water for "100%" of the small trees planted in Year 1.

2. By year 20 there's only enough water for 80% of the trees to stay healthy.

3. By year 50 there's a drought and only enough water for 50% of the super large trees.

End result: Trees die, trees become weak and infected, insects attack, fires happen.

Sacramento is a flat farm city by a river. The farmers use every ounce of water they can get, and the cities buy water at whatever price it takes. This has been going on for 100 years -- see Chinatown (1974). There's no logic to growing water intensive crops in California...but when did logic ever stop California from doing anything?

Michael McNeil said...

I know that in the US lengths are usually expressed in units of football fields or school busses, and height in statue's of liberty or empire state buildings, but what is the colloquial measure of weight? Volume, of course, is expressed in Olympic swimming pools the world over. But weight, I can't think of anything.

A nice thing about a “football field” (100 yards or 300 ft) as an easily-visualized together with dual-system (both metric and English) unit of (linear) measure is that it's much the same length as 100 meters — 0.1 km — while a square 100 meters (or a football field) on a side defines the metric unit of area (0.01 square km), the hectare.

As for weight, the obvious well-known (as well as dual-system) unit of weight is the ton — also quite similar in both systems.

Michael McNeil said...

But trees don't last forever, even if California's giant sequoias and bristlecone pines are among the oldest trees in the world (their record as the oldest, though, has been challenged by the discovery that some colonies of trees are actually one organism with common roots).

Coast redwoods (which can also live for thousands of years) do this: as exemplified in redwood “groves” or “fairy circles,” where the original tree may long since have disappeared, but a circle of now-mature offspring (actually the same!) tree grow in a circle round where the parent got started — while younger “seedlings” (but not grown from seeds!) spring up from the living roots — for a total oftentimes of 3 generations (of the same tree!) all growing closely together. Thus, a giant redwood can technically be even (much!) older than the growth rings on its individual trunk would indicate.

Alu Toloa said...

No one has raised the possibility the fallen giant (not very, if the elephant equation is close to accurate!) was Sequoia gigantea (native to the much drier Sierra than Sequoia sempervirons [Coast Redwood], and all too often mistakenly referred to as a "redwood". Given the reporter is not native, this wouldn't surprise me in the least (worked way through college as Park Aid for four summers at Prairie Creek Redwoods state park), as we perpetually corrected vistors' confusion.
Also for those scoffing at a redwood's ability to thrive in a hot arid climate, I give you my late, California native mother, who planted a young redwood square in the middle of our front lawn in the San Fernando valley, watered it copiously (the key!) for years, and Zillow displays is now close to 100' and still thriving.

loudogblog said...

The problem is that the trees weren't a part of the natural ecosystem of the area. California has always been a place where drought is the natural way of things. Planting trees that can't develop strong root structures because of drought conditions is asking for trouble. When I planted my trees in my back yard, I bought a special tool to inject water deep underneath the trees so that the root systems would grow deep and strong.

BTW, the L.A. Times ran a story this week about how the recent California storms were not the result of Climate Change but just typical weather patterns. https://www.latimes.com/environment/story/2023-01-19/california-storms-more-hype-than-climate-change#:~:text=As%20California%20emerges%20from%20a,the%20result%20of%20global%20warming.

So ABC had to instantly rush out a story saying that Climate Change will increase rainfall by trillions of gallons. (FYI, increased rainfall will actually cool the planet.) https://abc7.com/california-storms-rain-atmospheric-river/12719094/

It's a real shame that real scientists are not involved in the media Global Warming reporting anymore. It's all about alarmism, hype and getting ratings.

Rusty said...

gilbar said...
"Serious Question: are there More, or LESS trees than 100 years ago?"
More.
You know those moraines and hills Ms. Althouse and Meade like to wander? (me too). There are no trees on those hills that predate European occupation. Vast prairie fires scoured the hills and plains keeping trees and shrubs from growing on the hill tops. The rare exception would be the Burr Oak which as a sapling is fireproof. The trees on the plains grew in straem and river bottoms and around pot hole ponds. The pre-European old growth forests in the midwest were mostly hardwoods.

Gospace said...

A few years back a distant cousin died while stopped at an intersection when a tree, in perfectly good weather, no soaking rains or anything, toppled over onto his car. I was doing family tree research and found this a few weeks ago. I’d include a link to the clipping but it was a few weeks back when I found it, and no idea which part of my tree it was in. Over 21000 people currently on my tree. But decades from now his grandchildren may look him up on ancestry.com and find this tidbit of new waiting for them.

Hey, trees falling on random people happens. One of the more unusual deaths in my tree. A great-great uncle who fell off a wagon and got run over, 2 fratricides that I know of, and one ancestor in law who fell into a roaring creek during a storm. Though I suspect that one was more of a result of her male blood relatives discovering he had another family in London…

And then there are the ones who escaped death. One great uncle who between merchant marine and Navy ships had 5 ships torpedoed out from under him and survived without serious injuries. Don’t know the world record for that, but he’s gotta be in the top 10.

boatbuilder said...

"What goes up, must come down."

I think that was Sir Isaac Newton, but it could have been Ben Franklin or Samuel Clemens or Will Rodgers or Yogi Berra.

In any event, it has generally been proven to be true of most things, including large trees.

If the "climate" didn't "change," were the trees going to grow forever? Or justs gradually dissolve so as not to fall on anything?

MikeR said...

A story that has nothing at all to do with global warming, that constantly mentions global warming.
Global warming is like Donald Trump.

Fred Drinkwater said...

Loudogblog, Flying east from San Francisco, pilots of my acquaintance often referred to the land between Tahoe and Kansas City as "the great American desert". People should read Marc Reiser's book, "Cadillac Desert" for a reality check.

~ Gordon Pasha said...

My guess is that it is a deciduous redwood. They grow like weeds. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metasequoia

Gahrie said...

One great uncle who between merchant marine and Navy ships had 5 ships torpedoed out from under him and survived without serious injuries. Don’t know the world record for that, but he’s gotta be in the top 10.

There's a woman named Violet Jessop who survived the sinking of the Titanic and Britannic, and the near sinking of the Olympic, three sister ships of the White Star line.

typingtalker said...

Planting a tree is an inexpensive and rewarding action. Not maintaining and eventually harvesting a tree can be a very expensive, dispiriting and dangerous sort of inaction.

dwshelf said...

Adverse weather, and the consequences of adverse weather, are caused by bad people.

The government needs to crack down on bad people so that good people will be protected.

Unknown said...

I'm imagining canopies of Grand Pianos and Circus Elephants....

Unknown said...

I'm imagining canopies of Grand Pianos and Circus Elephants....

Tmitsss said...

Bradford Pears say hold my beer

Oddhan said...

Having grown up on the edge of redwood country in Silicon Valley, it should have been obvious to the average homeowner in Sacramento that redwoods didn't belong there. Most of California is brown all year except for two weeks in winter after the rains. The redwoods thrive in the parts of coastal California that are green year round. Sacramento is not in one of those parts, it's dry year round, in a flood plain, in a large north-south valley that gets wind much of the year. Putting exceptionally tall trees with exceptionally shallow root systems across your town was always going to end in misery.

Oddhan said...

Having grown up on the edge of redwood country in Silicon Valley, it should have been obvious to the average homeowner in Sacramento that redwoods didn't belong there. Most of California is brown all year except for two weeks in winter after the rains. The redwoods thrive in the parts of coastal California that are green year round. Sacramento is not in one of those parts, it's dry year round, in a flood plain, in a large north-south valley that gets wind much of the year. Putting exceptionally tall trees with exceptionally shallow root systems across your town was always going to end in misery.

Oddhan said...

Having grown up on the edge of redwood country in Silicon Valley, it should have been obvious to the average homeowner in Sacramento that redwoods didn't belong there. Most of California is brown all year except for two weeks in winter after the rains. The redwoods thrive in the parts of coastal California that are green year round. Sacramento is not in one of those parts, it's dry year round, in a flood plain, in a large north-south valley that gets wind much of the year. Putting exceptionally tall trees with exceptionally shallow root systems across your town was always going to end in misery.