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Storm Downs Beloved Trees In Central Park
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Storm Downs Beloved Trees In Central Park



Margot Adler has reported for NPR for 30 years now. For all of that time and longer, she's lived in an apartment overlooking the huge, green oasis of Central Park. When a storm this week destroyed as many as 100 trees there, for Margot it wasn't just another story to cover, it's personal.

MARGOT ADLER: Central Park is my backyard. It's right across the street. It's my country house, my birding forest, my nature. I have watched scarlet tanagers here and great egrets and mourning warblers. I've seen a woman in a wheelchair feeding four baby raccoons at dusk. And I followed the trees from season to season. There are many species of oaks and maples, horse chestnuts, London planes, elms, beeches, white ash — I could go on and on.

From my window, nothing looks different today. The huge rains of this summer have made the park luxurious, but enter the park, and the devastation of Tuesday's storm is everywhere. No one has seen anything like it in decades.

The storm, which meteorologists called a microburst, not a tornado, did its worst damage right where I live, in the west 90s and 100s. Walking out at six a.m. Wednesday, I saw at least 30 trees: oaks, ginkgos, maples, many more than 100 years old — totally uprooted.

Today, there is yellow caution tape all over the park, closing pathways and warning runners and dog walkers of the danger from falling branches. Right where I enter the park, there's a rock outcropping on the left. At first I couldn't even understand what I was seeing: a huge brown mass behind the rock. It was an enormous root system of a tree upended.

Then I saw another and another. Near the pool around 100th Street, it looks like a tornado has passed. After walking several miles to see the damage, I went to look for my favorite tree, a huge London plane that three people holding hands would never get their arms around. It's still there, with only a few branches torn off.

The death of these old friends is so sad. At the same time, there's something so beautiful and primal about the power of a storm, of nature still beyond human control.

There's a wonderful book that is still available. It's called "Tree Trails in Central Park." It takes you on walks, identifying tree by tree. If I open it to the chapter that starts on my block, it tells me that right to the left of the entrance are two European willows and a horse chestnut tree. It even says things like: Next to lamppost 9314 is a Chinese elm. I wonder how many entries in this book would have to be rewritten now.

(Soundbite of music)

BLOCK: That's NPR's Margot Adler in New York's Central Park after a wind storm destroyed many trees there.

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