Weakened by Drought, Trees Are Falling in Rainy California
Drenching winter rains combined with the punishing effects of six years of drought are causing trees to topple across California, in some cases with deadly results. At least two people have been killed in the past month.
Seemingly sturdy oaks, palm trees in Southern California and giant sequoias farther north have been collapsing. Experts say that in some instances, the dry spell had weakened or killed the roots or trunks, and the soggy soil and wind caused the trees to tip over.
Authorities had no immediate estimate of how many trees have toppled.
The epic drought gripping California has killed more than 102 million trees in the Sierra Nevada, in many cases by weakening them so much that they became vulnerable to attack by bark beetles.
A huge effort is underway in the Sierra Nevada to cut down dead trees near roads and homes before they fall. There are also fears that the deadwood could fuel catastrophic wildfires.
William Libby, a retired professor of forestry and genetics at the University of California, Berkeley, said that after a heavy rain, trees weakened by drought have been known to die suddenly instead of rebounding. He likened it to giving a starving person too much food too fast.