Ice Storm of 1991: Lost trees and lessons learned

Looking around today, there are few signs up to one-third of the Rochester area’s trees were once damaged or destroyed.
“The stuff that you saw years after the ice storm, broken branches still in the tops of trees, those have all disappeared at this point,” said Mark Quinn, of Monroe County Parks Department.
The ice storm of 1991 caused widespread devastation to trees. The city alone lost more than 10,000 trees.
“It was awful,” said Tom Argust, the city’s parks commissioner at the time. 
Trees that had shallow roots, conifer trees and trees that had not been maintained very well did poorly in the storm.
“Over time we did not particularly take care of our urban forest as maybe we should have . This was a wake up call,” said Argust.
Monroe County’s parks also suffered huge losses. But the showpiece lilacs came out okay.
“The lilacs did particularly well in the ice storm. They really didn’t get damaged very much,” said Quinn. “They’re pruned regularly so the branches are relatively smaller and not as brittle.”
The county planted hundreds of trees in the years after the ice storm. There was a lesson from the storm’s damage. 
“Certain trees fared very well and other trees fared very poorly,” said Quinn.
The city and the county replanted a more diverse selection of trees. The goal was to mitigate losses in any future disaster. They also selected trees that could better withstand an urban environment.
“We didn’t say let’s just clean it up and move on, keep doing what we’ve been doing,” said Argust, “It was how to make sure we focus on prevention rather than remediation.”
The city used federal disaster aid to create a database of all of its trees. A reforesting fund was also established for people who wanted to donate money to plant trees. The inventory and the fund exist to this day. 

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