Magazine article American Forests

Europe's Trees Battered

Magazine article American Forests

Europe's Trees Battered

Article excerpt

It should have been a regular trip. But when Parisian train conductor Jean Michel Gauthier felt his train shaking furiously as it made its way along the tracks, he knew right away "something big was happening."

"I had to stop because I saw roofs and trees on the railroad tracks," Gauthier wrote via e-mail. "Five passengers and I tried to lift the debris off the tracks, but one tree was too large and heavy. I sat on that train for 15 hours without moving because of the storm."

Gauthier was lucky. More than 140 people perished last December during two of the most severe windstorms to hit western Europe in recent memory. Millions of trees fell as 100 to 120 mile-per-hour winds battered France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Britain, Spain, and Italy. Many of the dead had been hit by tree branches, according to The Washington Post.

Hurricane-force winds toppled an estimated 10,000 trees at Versailles, the historic palace and gardens of King Louis XIV About 9 million tourists travel annually to the 2,000-acre site, once landscaped with single and double rows of carefully pruned linden and beech trees. The storm destroyed many of the oak, ash, beech, and cherry that populate the grounds.

"It was like the apocalypse," Alain Baraton, the head gardener, told The Associated Press. "In one hour, 200 years of trees were destroyed."

Among the victims: a tulip poplar imported from Virginia for Marie Antoinette and a Corsican pine planted under Napoleon's orders. …

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