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Storm Damage in the Parks of Chermside

Australia Day Storm 2013

The Big Storm of 2013 occurred between the 24-28th January 2013 with a rainfall of 370mm or 14.5 inches in the O'Shea backyard, Virginia.
Downfall creek flooded to the highest level since the 1990s. The concrete bridge on Brickyard Road was covered and acted as a dam wall impounding the water upstream. A counter current developed on the Virginia side (South) sending water back upstream.

One and a Half Trees

For many years these two old trees stood in this spot, but after the storm only one and a half were left. The light coloured E. teriticornis was broken off about one quarter of the way up the trunk. The Ironbark behind managed to weather the storm and still stands off the bike track only meters in front of the footbridge over Somerset Creek.

Two Eucalypts, an Ironbark and a Blue Gum stood for centuries, part of a great forest area of sub tropical rainforest. Long before the Whitefella arrived with his steel axe and saw to clear the land to build Brisbane Town, these trees stood tall.

The Blackbutt, which measures 37m (123 feet) to the crowns, is still standing tall while the Eucalyptus teriticornis was partially demolished in the storm leaving a stump 9m (30 feet) tall. The tall stump, was cut down on about 15th April and the trunk cut into sections. The fallen trunk measured 9m and, assuming the Teriticornis would have been roughly the same height as the Ironbark, it too would have been about 37m to the crown.

I use a 45 degree set square at my eye level holding one side of the triangle level and sight along the hypotenuse. When I reach a point away from the tree where the hypotenuse is pointing to the top crown of the tree I mark the spot and add my height to the distance from the tree.

The total distance to the base of the tree is the height of the tree.

Measure the girth of tree at my shoulder height with a tape. Calculate the diameter in centimeters and one centimeter equals one year.

The wind seems to have been coming from the North-East to have laid the top part of the Gum beside the bike track.

The question arises why did the break occur nine metres up the tree? Why didn't it uproot the tree and blow it all down? The ground was thoroughly soaked and softened.

The wind was strong, the thunder and lightning were impressive but the wind was frightening. It blew the 'daylights' out of us listening in our frail little houses.

The Long Stump Close Up

On this photo it is possible to see the dead wood on the standing trunk. It is drying out, splitting and allowing the rain to penetrate and rot the timber. It is a slow process but nature has plenty of time to work.

Getting closer enables us to see the extent of the stripped bark and the dead wood of this side of the tree.

The splits are prominent and seem to indicate that the bark probably came off in one swipe; possibly when the branch came off the stump at the top right.

The Point of Weakness

The fallen upper part of the tree and crowns gives some idea of the 'sail' effect of the branches and leaves in a wind.

Extent of the Weakness

This close up of the fallen tree shows just how weak the trunk had become. There was only a shell of new timber and bark holding it together. It was only a matter of time for a wind to come.........

In fact it was a tribute to the resiliance of the tree that it was able to stand so long. Evolution over billions of years has fine tuned the development of trees in our forests to withstand all but the greatest winds. The winds are one way nature uses to cull the forests and make way for new trees.

Tall trees such as these have to be very strong and be firmly planted in the ground to withstand wind because the crown, leaves and branches, acts like a huge sail. The wind is able to exert considerable pressure on this 'sail' and lever the tree over. That is why many trees are uprooted in wind storms. The stronger trees only lose branches in the high winds.

When a large branch falls it often leaves a hole in the trunk of the tree which becomes a home for many types of birds and mammals.

Demolition of the 9m Stump

Unfortunately I photographed this stump when it was still drying out from the dew in the morning. This has discoloured some of the timber. However it is possible to see the black signs of rotting timber in the section in the right hand corner and in the foreground as well as one in left side.

Finally the remaining stump was cut off at gound leves leaving the small stump for the stump grinder to finish the job.

The stump shown here shows that the bark did not go right around the tree. The bark stops in the lower middle of the photo, goes around clock wise to the middle right of the photo. There is no bark on the trunk in the lower right corner of the photo.

The bark could have been stripped of the tree when a large branch was torn off and brought the bark down with it.

When the bark is stripped off the growth of new wood ceases. That is why ringbarking is so effective in killing trees.

When growth ceases the deterioration or rotting of the wood begins as rainwater seeps into cracks which appear as the dead wood slowly shrinks.

The 9m Stump - Felled and Dissected

This is the 9m length of the trunk that was cut down in April showing the weathered timber where the bark has been stripped away a long time ago. There is plenty of bark on the underside of the the trunk.

The bark protects the outer layer of new timber which the growing tree adds each year, viz: growth rings.

Upper End of the 9m Stump

This is the upper end of the long stump which has been cut into short lengths prior to chipping. The dark patches on the upper part of the cut face are the effects of water slowly rotting the dead timber as it drains downward.

A narrow layer of dead wood can be seen around the part of the log where the bark was missing. The remaining bark folds in over the still growing wood and frames the dead wood.

Gone - No Reminder of the Old Monarch

Next wet season at the end of 2013 the grass will reclaim the site. The buried root system will wither and decay, the ground may subside somewhat and the frogs will still click in the nearby pond.

Because the area is a Municipal Park the natural processes are tailored to suit the human inhabitants of the city.

So the felled tree has been dissected with chain saws, chipped and carted away to finish up on someone's garden.

The wood will not decay in situ and fertilise the soil from which the tree drew its sustenance. The natural cycle of regeneration is broken, but we do our best, I think, I hope!

The Old Ironbark Orphan

The Ironbark towers over the surrounding trees, the last of its tribe. With Chermside in the throes of upward growth the area needs many more large native trees.

Old growth trees are rather rare in 7th Brigade Park we lost one near the World War I memorial gates off Murphy Road only last year.

Riding through the woodlands of the park one has to look hard to find any among the secondary growth and grass that carpets so much of the area. It would be good if the area bounded by the bicycle tracks and Downfall Creek could be protected like Benkie's Bush in the grounds of The Prince Charles and Holy Spirit Hospitals! Just a thought.

In another 300 years we might have a forest of giants! Just a thought - for now!