Hurricane Harvey may have hit the Texas coast four months ago, but the recovery process is long. While Houston endured torrential rains, Rockport and Port Aransas bore the brunt of Harvey’s 150+ MPH winds. When the hurricane made landfall in Aransas county, it devastated the windswept oak forest that gives the area so much of its charm. Extensive tree work has already been done on public property, but there are still many private residents who were hit hard and needed assistance from a professional arborist.
Responding to the call for a weekend of service by the International Society of Arboriculture- Texas Chapter (ISA-Texas), associate designer and certified arborist Colter Sonneville journeyed to Rockport for the weekend to work with fellow arborists from around the state. After meeting with local officials, disaster coordinators, and the Texas A&M Forest Service to go over the scope of the assessments, arborist teams headed out to evaluate damaged trees on over 150 residential and non-profit properties.
At each site, teams performed a limited ground-based assessment of tree risk, and advised homeowners of what was found and were advised what type of work, if any, their trees require. Even months after the storm, the damage was enormous. High winds stripped leaves completely off trees, leaving bare skeletons. While many of the live oaks toward the interior of the island were already rebounding with new foliage, trees on waterfront-adjacent properties were struggling with recovery due to sea-salt spray saturating the soil and high winds tearing off all but the thickest of limbs, which don’t bear leaf buds. Growing new foliage is critical to sustain the biomass of the tree. Homeowners were advised to reduce stress on the tree by providing supplemental water, applying organic fertilizer, and avoiding cutting limbs. Most of the trees assessed were coastal live oak, which are quite resilient to stress and are good at compartmentalizing damage such as broken limbs. With time, many of them will recover and continue providing the sun-blocking canopy that is so desired in this area.
This service event is the first of its kind organized by ISA-Texas.Due to its success and the overwhelming desire of its members to serve the community, we expect to see more of these events in the future.