The weather service predicted an inch of snow. When we got something over 22 inches, I wasn’t surprised. After all, I’ve listened to those folks guess at the weather for years. I know how well they do.
I love snow and this was particularly nice. Fluffy and light, it mounded in graceful undulations over the trees, hedges, and buildings. The power was out, then back, then out—nothing unusual around here. We played in the snow, threw snowballs for the dog, piled up dry wood by the front door. Then things turned nasty.
It started to rain and the fluffy snow soaked up the water like a sponge. Then the temperature dropped, and the now heavy snow crusted with ice. Melted snow encased branches and hardened into stalactites that hung like rows of daggers from even the smallest branches. The trees tipped and sagged under the weight. It wasn’t long before I began hearing the cracks, loud as gunshots and just as sudden, that signaled the destruction of my little forest. Not just my forest, of course, all of them for miles and miles around.
This was the second ice storm I have seen here. We still talk about the ’96 storm as if it were yesterday but now, 15 years later, it was happening again. In ’96 I slept with my head under a pile of pillows so I wouldn’t have to hear the trees break, although I could still feel the ground shake when a particularly big one bit the dust. This time was no different. And both times, when the sun rose the next morning and I peered out the window, I was heartbroken at the scene.
This time was actually worse. Hedges we spent years tending were flattened. Trees we had watered and trimmed and cared for broke like matchsticks. A particularly elegant Leyland cypress that I see out my kitchen window snapped in two about twenty feet up—the rest of it landed in the driveway.
Behind the house and up the hill the forest floor is a crisscross of wood—huge trunks and tiny twigs piled in impenetrable snags. My five-minute walk to the upper hives took just under an hour and a half as I tried to find a way through the masses of limbs lying on the steep slope over two feet of snow. We estimate we lost 200-300 trees, most of them broken fairly high up, so the trunks still have to be taken down—months of work ahead.
The sad thing for the bees is that the hardwoods fared the worst. We lost mostly alder, maple, bitter cherry, cascara, Indian plum, and saskatoon—all the trees the bees visit for pollen and nectar. The softwoods did better. Douglas-fir, Frasier fir, western red cedar, deodar cedar, incense cedar, hemlock, black pine, ponderosa pine, Colorado spruce, and most of the Leyland cypresses did fine, but they have little to offer the bees. So very sad.
Oddly enough, none of our buildings or beehives was hit. The irony, of course, is that the building are insured, the trees are not. And I can fix a building, whereas I can’t fix a tree that is broken in two.
So there you have it—the story of my week. I’m trying to look at the positive side. We have sunlight where we never had it before. We have room to plant more trees. We have firewood for years and years to come. As for the bees, they will just have to fly further and work harder. Such is life.