Severe wind gusts hit two groups of Bradford Pear trees at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling (JBAB), causing them to split during the early morning hours of May 16.
The damage came on the eve of Public Works Recognition Week, keeping JBAB’s Public Works Department crews busy as they tended to the cleanup of large branches.
Some branches were completely severed from their trunk and resting on the ground while others remained partly attached.
Shauna Dooley, an arborist with Public Works, said crews were out at 7:30 a.m. with chainsaws and dump trucks, cleaning the damage near the installation’s headquarters building and the Air Force Honor Guard complex.
“There must have been a sheer of wind that came through because there are a lot of little limbs from other trees around, but mainly what we have is damage to our Bradford Pear trees that are around base,” Dooley said. “It always has inherent problems with breakage in storms. It doesn’t take much to break these things apart.”
The problem with the Bradford Pear lies in the strength of its wood and the angles at which its branches grow from its trunk. Together this gives the variety a tendency to split or break apart.
“They’ve pretty much culled them out of the retail market. You really can’t find those trees anymore. They’ve been replaced with improved varieties that are less susceptible to splitting,” said Dooley.
During the spring or summer Dooley said the Bradford Pear trees around base are easily recognizable.
“Probably the easiest way to know them is the early white spring flowers. Then their leaves have a beautiful red fall color,” she said.
Almost two years ago, during the June 29, 2012 derecho (a storm comprised of a large clusters of thunderstorms), JBAB sustained widespread wind damage. At least 80 percent of the tree damage was to the Brandford Pears, Dooley estimates.
“If you see a tree split in half on base following a storm, chances are it’s a Bradford Pear,” Dooley said. “That’s why we’re slowly replacing them.”