Trees across the Palouse were put under unusual strain following heavy, damp snowfall on Friday leaving city crews and campus workers to clean up some of the worst tree damage many have seen in years.
“The heavy, wet snow, even though there wasn’t a lot of it, it sure caused havoc among the trees,” said Brian Johnson, assistant vice president for facilities at the University of Idaho. “A lot of trees still had their leaves and so that helped retain the snow and all the weight more than it would have otherwise had the leaves already fallen.”
While Pullman, Moscow and Washington State University say their trees were not left untouched, none reported the kind of damage seen on the UI’s Moscow campus.
In a Monday email, UI Arboretum Superintendent Paul Warnick said it’s some of the worst damage he’s seen in 20 years. He said at least five trees have been removed completely and more than 25 have had “major surgery” cutting and pruning tree limbs at risk of failure.
He said the UI’s Arboretum was hit hard, while a tree-lined promenade and lawn northeast of the school’s Administration Building saw even more devastation.
While Friday’s damage was worse than most, Warnick said it is not uncommon for local trees to shed branches or even to topple because of weather.
“Unusually high winds are more frequently the culprit but heavy snow can do it.” Warnick said. “Trees live and die, you know, that’s part of the deal.”
Just over the Washington border, WSU workers were still cleaning up fallen branches and other debris through Monday but they said the damage was much more mild than what was seen at the UI.
Pullman Parks Superintendent Alan Davis said the same was true of the surrounding city. Davis said city crews helped to clear a number of private trees that came down in the street but much of their work was clearing fallen branches in city parks.
“I think what happened with this one — we had the really cold temperatures and just a little bit of that wet snow, and the wind came through,” he said. “What we saw more of than anything were medium-sized branches.”
Despite its close proximity to the UI campus, the City of Moscow also reported minimal damage mostly at Ghormley, East City and Jim Lyle Rotary parks.
Moscow Assistant Director of Parks and Recreation David Schott said city crews spent much of the weekend cleaning up and removing potentially hazardous hanging branches but the trees themselves fared pretty well.
Still, Schott said the destruction caused by Friday’s unseasonable snowfall was like nothing he’s seen in his five years working for the city.
“It was just kind of a combination of a perfect storm (with) just a lot of leaves on the trees, the wet snow,” Schott said.
Scott Jackson can be reached at (208) 883-4636, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.