Friday, August 28, 2020

Storm Isaías Recap

Phew! Storm Isaías made a real mess of the trails, but that's mostly been cleaned up. How big of a mess was it? Along the 10-mile Paugussett Trail system in Shelton (which includes Tahmore Trail), there were about thirty-five blowdowns large enough to require a saw. That's an average of almost one every quarter mile, although the blowdowns were cluster on exposed hilltops.  And that doesn't include the other 20 miles of trails in Shelton. 

These obstructions ranged in size from large branches too heavy to drag off the trail without being cut first, to the unstable "monster hickory" over the Paugussett Trail that took three guys with two chainsaws and a peavey all morning to clear.  

Terry, Mark and Luis cut up this big hickory

The "monster hickory" across the Paugussett Trail

Many of the obstructions consisted of tree crowns that had fallen across the trail as the storm tore off the upper limbs and threw them to the ground, and sometimes it was several tree crowns piled up together. These can really block a trail. Immediately after the storm, hikers started creating a tunnel through one particularly bad crown-fall complex at Indian Well, crawling twenty or thirty feet and breaking some smaller branches with their hands. The terrain was too steep on either side to go around, and it was the only way through. This blowdown took almost an hour to clear because much of it was overhead and not entirely stable, so a lot of time was spent studying the mass and proceeding slowly. 

People were tunneling through this mess 

Same spot, all clear!

In between all the big stuff were zillions of leaves, sticks, and smaller branches. Some trails weren't too bad, while others were covered in a thick blanket of this stuff. 

Confounding early cleanup efforts was the inability for the volunteers to communicate with each other since most were without power or Internet service for several days. Over 60% of Shelton was without power and a number of roads were blocked with fallen trees. Cell phone signals were terrible throughout much of Shelton and people couldn't even get their email or check the Facebook comments about the trails. Trails Committee volunteers also had to first deal with tree damage at home before worrying about the hiking trails. 

The Nicholdale parking lot was a mess

Bruce Nichols with Shelley and Nick Sheriden show off the cleared parking lot

But eventually the forces were marshaled to get the trails clear. Some of the Trail Monitors had begun clearing their trails almost immediately (Trails Monitors don't have to do any actual work other than report trail conditions to us, but we LOVE it when they really adopt their trail and work to keep it clear). Ellen Cramp was hard at work on Oak Valley Trail and giving us reports of blowdowns.  Shelley and Nick Sheriden started working on one end of Nichols Trail while Graham Bisset started working on the other end. The parking lot at Nicholdale was covered with fallen trees which Shelley and Nick were working on when Bruce Nichols and an anonymous volunteer happened upon the scene and cut up the mess with chainsaws. 

There were undoubtedly plenty of hikers and mountain bikers out there moving sticks and small branches off the trails. That was a huge help. 

Hard to tell, but this is the Rec Path near the Dog Park

The Rec Path behind Pine Lake, already partly cleared

The storm hit on Tuesday, August 4. The next morning, the weekly "Weeding Wednesdays" session at Eklund Garden was converted to storm cleanup. Staff Teresa Gallagher started working on repairing 150 feet of deer fencing at the garden that had been crushed by two large trees (in between was a wasp nest, but that's another story), and directed volunteer Dan Persico to forget about the garden and start clearing the Rec Path behind Pine Lake with his handsaw. Dan got quite a bit cleared that first morning, and Teresa followed up in the afternoon with a battery-powered chainsaw from Pine Lake to Silent Waters, leaving just one larger log for the big chainsaws. 

"Before" - Paugussett below Sinsabaugh

"After" - cleared with a small battery-powered chainsaw

At this point, there wasn't much communication going on. Teresa set a goal of checking the entire Shelton Paugussett and Tahmore Trails while carrying a battery-chainsaw in a pack, which took several days. The small chainsaw was fine for 80 or 90% of the blowdowns, and much lighter to carry down the trail. She also set up a storm status post on this blog as a clearinghouse of information. Which trails were clear? Where was a chainsaw needed? Which trails were still a mystery and needed to be walked? It was all recorded there and updated continuously. 

By Thursday or Friday, committee members started getting their Internet back like everyone else in Shelton, and we started getting better feedback about the trails. Someone reported that Basil Brook Bypass had been cleared. We still don't know by who, probably some mountain bikers. Shelton Lakes clearly needed a lot of work, so the Trails Committee decided to have a work party there on Saturday for storm cleanup. There was a surprisingly good turnout, and most of the trails at Shelton Lakes were cleared by the end of the day. There were so many sticks and leaves on the Rec Path that the guys used the Gator mowing deck over the Rec Path, which worked fine. 

The volunteers get ready to clear Shelton Lakes

The volunteers then began chipping away at other trails in town. Terry Gallagher cut up a large "limbo log" at Indian Well. Boehm Pond had several large blowdowns identified by Val and cut up by Mark and Luis, with Teresa following up with a backpack leafblower because the trail was so messy (she blew off Tahmore Trail as well, which was just covered with leaves and sticks). Mark and Luis were a critical duo, cutting up a large proportion of the major blowdowns all over the trail system. 

As of this writing, three and a half weeks after the storm, there are still a few minor blowdowns to attend to, but nothing significant. Three or four blowdowns occurred after trails had been cleared as broken limbs and trees hanging in the canopy finally completed their fall. There are in fact a number of spots where trees and limbs are still hung up overhead, so hikers should be alert for that. 

No comments:

Post a Comment