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
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
should be pleased with his prediction and the speed of its
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
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
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.
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!
Freeze damage to plants
damage to lawns