Northeast Ice Storm Takes Toll On Trees Oaks, Maples, Willows Fall Victim To Freezing Rain, Sleet

THURSDAY, JAN. 15, 1998

Come springtime, fewer weeping willows will line the streets of this capital. Many of the big oaks that provided shade each summer are gone. And the woods of Vermont have lost thousands of syrup-producing maple trees.

Long after the ice melts and the power comes back on in northern New England - known for its mouth-watering syrup and colorful fall foliage - last week’s barrage of freezing rain and sleet will leave its mark by way of dead or dying trees.

The willows of Augusta are now encased in ice. Many will die; others will be practically leafless in the spring because the heavy ice snapped most of the branches off.

“We’ll be living with this damage for quite awhile,” Henry Trial, an entomologist with the Maine Forest Service, said Wednesday.

In Vermont, maple syrup producers predicted heavy losses.

“I think a bomb would’ve been easier because there would’ve been just one big hole,” said Douglas Rose, owner of Green Mountain Sugarhouse in Ludlow. Rose produced 3,000 gallons of syrup last year, and he thinks he will be able to get only about 1,000 gallons this year.

The storm and subsequent power outage are blamed for 16 deaths in Canada. At least 12 deaths in Maine and New York were linked to the storm, including seven carbon monoxide poisonings from heaters or generators used in poorly ventilated areas.

About 190,000 customers were without power Wednesday, most of them in Maine and New York.

Trees in forests tend to fare better than their in-town counterparts because they have shorter branches, and thus have less to lose. That means the foliage that draws thousands of tourists to New England each year should be as brilliant as ever - maybe even more so - next fall.

“What we do know is that generally speaking, stressed trees will produce spectacular color,” said Susan Benson, spokeswoman for the Maine Department of Conservation.

But many towns stand to lose some of their most prized shade trees, which tend to have wide, spreading branches. These branches have broken under the buildup of ice.

In cities and towns, fallen limbs are scattered in yards and on roads. Other branches are ready to fall or hanging precariously, and dealers can hardly keep up with demand for chain saws.

“I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say half of the trees in this county will have to be cut down,” said Rodney Brown, planner for Clinton County in northern New York.

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