I'm all busted up
(and so are my trees)

4th worst snowstorm busts up Bob's trees

February 6, 2010 - Punxsutawney Phil called for 6 more weeks of winter on Tuesday. Three days later, the weatherman and weatherwoman forecast 6 to 8 inches of snow for Friday afternoon into Saturday. When the amount they forecast had fallen before midnight Friday, and snow was still coming down at nearly an inch an hour, everyone knew it would be much worse.

Deep snow in Peters Township

The snowfall total ended up being 18 to 24 inches when it ended Saturday afternoon, depending on what part of southwestern Pennsylvania you stuck your yardstick in. I'm going to officially declare our picnic table depth at
17- inches. Punxsutawney Phil should be pleased with his prediction and the speed of its deliverance.
This snowstorm ranked as the 4th worse in Pittsburgh history, at least since record keeping began in the late 1800's. It may easily rank as Pittsburgh's worst storm for trees and shrubs, since I started landscaping 30-plus years ago. Ice and freezing rain have done their damage over the past few decades, but this snowfall had a special "glue-factor" the way it surrounded and encased wires and branches.

Snow encased telephone cable
Telephone cable encased in snow

The usual suspects went down first, as they always do. You know, those fast growing flowering Pears that everyone loves to plant. Their evergreen brothers, who are always without much of a "spine" in winter, went right down with them -- Arborvitae may mean 'tree of life' but that name definitely wasn't assigned in winter. Birch traditionally bend all the way to the ground, but seem to miraculously stand up once Spring arrives. Some other varieties of trees with soft wood also suffered with varying degrees of bends and splits.


We planted a columnar Hornbeam about ten years ago on a narrow planting strip behind our mailbox. The tree was doing pretty well until this snowstorm splayed it open like a peeled banana. It will take time to judge its recovery potential. A small Hinoki Cypress pom-pom in our front flowerbed developed a heavy load of snow on its top ball and got bent halfway over but not broken, so perhaps some spring staking will be all it takes for recovery. A purple leaf Beech, with a vase-shaped growth habit, also got splayed open, but appears to have much more recovery potential than the Hornbeam.

Saucer Magnolia branch split by heavy snow
Magnolia branch split under the weight of heavy snow

A neighbor said he heard a loud splitting sound from one of our trees on the south side of the house, hopefully it's the 4-inch diameter branch I already noticed on our Saucer Magnolia instead of a much larger structural branch on a Red Maple I started from a seedling 40-years ago. It provides that ideal southwest shade always recommended for a cool house in summer.
It was the Pin Oak I saw split-out in Upper St Clair yesterday that really made the severity of the storm sink in, since oaks are usually the tough hardwoods. However, some of them, especially Pin Oaks, do develop "V"-crotches which are always more vulnerable to splitting. Someday, when road conditions improve, I'll inspect that Pin Oak more carefully.
To add insult to injury, our weather forecast calls for another 6 to 8 inches of snow tonight. Phil has usually been right when he calls for 6 more weeks of winter, but he didn't have to be this right!
Think Spring!


Frost damage

Freeze damage to plants

Snow Mold damage to lawns


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