Cherry trees damaged by cold temps, tornado in D.C. to be replaced

Photo of cherry trees damaged by cold weather and a tornado that hit the D.C. area last week. Monday, April 10, 2017 (ABC7 photo)

Days after an EF-0 tornado hopped around the Tidal Basin, a path of destruction is left behind.

Twisted branches are scattered, cordoned off by yellow caution tape.

Tree trunks are snapped like matchwood.

Debris is piled up, among the sawed-off remains of giant trunks.

“Mother Nature’s a beast,” says Dan Marcy, a visitor from New York state. “This is a little surprising. I was unaware a tornado that came through last week.”

The shriek of chainsaws and the roar of wood chippers echoed across the basin Friday.

The National Park Service says nine trees were damaged or destroyed by the storm.

Four of them were cherry trees.

“A little scary how there are so many trees around here and this could happen,” says John Tobin, also from New York.

The District’s iconic trees had been through so much.

Heat. Cold. Snow. Freezing rain.

Yet the trees and their blooms persevered… at least some did.

“This came along, and it was really destructive,” recalls Catherine Townsend, the president and CEO of the Trust for the National Mall. “This was just an indicator of the pummeling they take.”

Townsend says in fact, the National Park Service’s tree crew replaces 90 cherry trees each year, lost from decay or damage.

For the first time, the trust is launching a cherry tree endowment.

The plan is to raise the $50,000 to $60,000 needed every year to replace the damaged trees.

That’s about $600 per tree.

Townsend says the endowment would be a way to repair or replace trees, without dipping into an already tight National Park Service budget.

The Park Service would contract the work out through D.C.-area nurseries.

“They do some genetic grafting of the trees to help preserve the original,” Townsend says. “So the new trees they plant would have a piece of the original cherry trees that were delivered.”

Delivered in 1912, that is.

Yes, some of this beloved tree-tradition is damaged.

“That’s awful, that’s awful,” says Karen Gauthier, from Connecticut.

“I guess we’re lucky that it was just trees,” adds Amy Rachuva, a Wisconsin resident. “Hopefully, there weren’t too many people around here at the time.”

But through science, the Park Service and the trust are hoping to make what’s old, new again.

“It’s amazing,” exclaims Tobin. “To keep everything as original as you can, is very important to this area.”

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