For the second time in less than a year, Arlington National Cemetery has been hit hard by the forces of nature.
While damage is still being accessed, a total of 35 cemetery trees have been deemed as total losses after June 29 severe thunderstorms uprooted saplings and destroyed a pair of white oaks and a red oak that pre-dated the cemetery.
“The overall damage was pretty extensive; we don't have a solid number, but the damage has exceeded the Hurricane Irene damage [sustained in August 2011],” said ANC horticulturalist and horticultural division chief Steve Van Hoven. “We had about 12 larger trees either uprooted or broken in half, and on top of that, 25 other trees were damaged beyond repair.”
Three trees in the 200-year-old range have been lost. A pair of white oaks were rooted in section one near the Old Amphitheatre area and the red oak was located in section 27, which is the oldest section of the cemetery. Burials began in that section in 1864. About 1,500 Civil War-era African-American troops and four Medal of Honor recipients are interred in section 27.
“We have 8,400 total trees [at ANC] and we still have a lot of old trees, but it's a shame we lost 10 bigger, older trees,” Van Hoven said. “As for the younger, smaller trees, smaller limbs are broken and hanging in trees.”
The downing and battering of trees was so extensive, crews at ANC are still attempting to manhandle the storm's aftermath. The cemetery does have a plan in place to remove branches, limbs and exposed roots.
“To get everything totally restored, it will take a couple more weeks,” Van Hoven said. “We still have large trees on the ground. We will have to go back and get the smaller branches in trees. It's hard to count up the ones with a couple limbs broke. Then we will go back and get the trees that are damaged beyond repair.”
Those Arlington National Cemetery trees not being saved will be hauled away by contractors and converted into wood chips or chopped into fire wood.