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When the storm hit

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

(Photo)
Denisa and John Timberman's daughter and nieces sit on a tractor the family is using to clear debris from the large white oak that was brought down over their drive by a July 13 storm. Left: Andi Purcell, Ashley Purcell, Evvie Kate Timberman and Denisa Timberman. Foreground right: Jake Purcell. Background left: John Timberman.

- 200-year-old white oak trees were felled by mighty winds

Two mighty white oak trees were brought down by the storm that assaulted Clay County on July 13. Owners Denisa and John Timberman believe the trees were more than 208 years old.

The storm made a path through the Timberman's five acre wooded home site, uprooting or breaking off 50-60 trees. But the Timbermans considered their greatest loss to be the two towering giant oaks.

"I loved those trees," Denisa said at her home on north County Line Road July 15, while helping the family clear their near quarter mile lane leading up to the house. "I think about all the things that have happened during the lifespan of those beautiful, old trees."

Denisa's dad, Bill Reberger, estimated that the oaks were 80-100 feet tall. Neither tree was close enough to endanger the Timberman home. The bigger one had a 48-inch diameter with a 145-inch circumference.

The smaller tree, with an estimated 44-inch diameter, had stood on the hillside bordering the northern edge of the driveway. When it fell, the bottom remained on the northern embankment. The top of the oak rested on the southern hillside making a leafy wall and roof over the drive leading to the Timberman's home.

After the foliage and branches that had blocked the drive were removed, the remaining trunk provided a "doorway" big enough to drive a tractor under. It looked like the entrance into Snow White's forest.

Richard Booe of R. Booe & Son Hardwoods was asked about the big oaks.

"Trees can be preserved but they have a natural life span," he explained. "Nature takes its course. Weather, insects and human involvement may shorten a tree's life. But it would not be unusual for a white oak to live 200 years and even possible they could live 300 years."

Booe Hardwoods Forester, Brad Wilson, said the best way to determine the age of a tree is to cut a cross section of the trunk, as close to the ground as possible, and count the rings. He said the piece should be moistened because it's easier to differentiate the rings when the wood is wet.

The Timbermans said they had to compensate a little. Because of the ragged break in the bigger tree, they had to go up nearly 15 feet to make the cut. And they had to do some calculating in the ring count because of some rotting in the core. They couldn't get a cut of the smaller oak which is still laying over the drive.

Reberger said he put the driveway in a couple of years ago.

"The cut was already there," Reberger said. "This drive was an old county road back in the horse and buggy days. It came out on the Lena Road.

"There were no large trees here when I cleared the drive but nature was trying to reclaim it," he continued. "It was a big job."

Denisa looked around her property surveying the damage and the clean up.

"I can't help but think about everything those trees have seen," she said. "The Civil War, the birth of flight, the invention of electricity."

She paused, looking sadly at the fallen ecological heroes.

"Nobody got hurt," she said. "I'm grateful for that. But I was just sickened that my old trees are gone."



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