“It was the fastest hitting and departing storm I’ve seen,” said Grace Dinsdale, owner of Blooming Nursery in Cornelius, Ore.
Last Thursday’s sudden squall raced its way through Western Oregon, bringing dust clouds, high winds, harsh rains, thunder, lightning, hail, and even flash floods, funnel clouds and tornadoes. Some 50,000 people lost power, and temperature drops of up to 25 degrees happened in less than an hour. The Oregon Association of Nurseries surveyed members to see how many felt the effects of the storm, and many reported that they did.
“It looked like Kansas for about the first 40 minutes; a huge dust cloud engulfed us, laden with all kinds of stuff,” Dinsdale said. “It was wild and ominous for 45 minutes and we ran around opening the leeward sides of greenhouses and battening down everything we could.” By the time the storm ended, Blooming Nursery suffered several downed trees and “numerous rips and tears on the edges of things,” Dinsdale said. One greenhouse lost all its plastic.
For other nurseries, the damage was even worse. Northwest Shade Trees LLC of Brooks, Ore., reported that it lost 75 trees to the high winds, which is more than it lost during last winter’s ice storm. Brooks Gardens, a peony grower located nearby, also reported heavy damage. “The tornado weather was devastating to our peony field,” owner Therese Sprauer said. “We had just come into full bloom a day or two earlier and the fierce wind flattened a good portion of our crop. Luckily no one was hurt by falling trees or struck by lightning. Our flower-cutting tent and farm gate were destroyed. We lost thousands of cut flowers. The sky blackened and the ferocious wind roared at us, whipping us with tremendous velocity. We had never experienced such wind force in our lives. Heavy rain drenched us in seconds. As we raced for the house, I wondered if if it would be there when we reached it.”
Quail Ridge Shade Trees Inc. of Sherwood, Ore. reported moderate damage at its hillside location, about 700 feet above sea level. An estimated 20-30 trees suffered broken limbs or tops, and several smaller trees were pulled apart from their bamboo stakes. “Many hours will be spent repairing the bamboo, adding to the losses this year,” owner Mike Kaiser said.
Moana Nursery near Canby, Ore. reported that numerous plants in its container yard were laid over on their sides, adding a considerable labor expense. Similarly, Shotts Nursery in Boring, Ore. had about 1,000 plants blow over, more than usual for a strong event. Al’s Garden Centers had the plastic ruined on three greenhouses; it will have to be replaced. And Windy Hill Farm Nursery? The Carlton, Ore. nursery lived up to its name. “We had pots and plastic blown a quarter mile,” owner Kuon Hunt said. “The shutter window frames (screen and wood framing) were blown out of one of our greenhouses. We had a 30-foot Albizia in the display garden ripped up and two-thirds of it thrown to the ground. Live and dead branches were ripped off other trees; trees, shrubs and perennials were lain over.”
But the storm may have had its upside. “The good news is we don’t have to go in and take out any of the dead wood in any of our trees now,” Hunt said.