“Oklahoma pretty much got hammered,” said state Forester and Forestry Services Director George Geissler. “Even what you would call drought-tolerant trees — and by that I mean primarily the Eastern red cedar — have succumbed to the drought. It’s been a bad year.”
In urban areas, he said, most of the lost trees are small-needle pines not indigenous to the region, such as the Japanese black pine, Austrian pine and Colorado blue spruce. He said most of the impacted rural areas involve trees already in difficult locations, such as ridges and hills.
Mirroring the toll that the drought has had in Texas, Oklahoma officials believe 5 percent to 10 percent of the state’s trees have been lost.
Geissler said it will be difficult to get firmer numbers until spring.
“Some of these trees might come back, but we’ll also see what trees are not leafing back out,” he said. “We’re just waiting for spring to see what comes out.”
Jerry Hancock can attest to how the drought has punished trees in the metro. As the owner of Edmond-based tree service Albert and Sons, he said trees have been battered by everything from last year’s blizzards to hailstorms in 2010.
“On top of that, we had the hottest summer since 1983,” Hancock said. “You cannot attribute it just to the lack of rain. It’s been a whole bunch of environmental stuff all combined.”
At the end of November, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that drought has impacted about 20 percent of the U.S.
Photo by Shannon Cornman