Summer storms keep disaster recovery top of mind

Strong storms, tornadoes, and wildfires have rocked communities all across the U.S. this spring and summer, leaving paths of destruction in their wake.

In the past few weeks alone, thousands of acres have burned in Southern California and New Mexico. Oklahoma and Texas each have seen rampant devastation by multiple tornadoes – some bringing the strongest winds ever recorded. And with the 2013 tropical storm season now officially underway, climatologists are predicting more and stronger storms for the coasts this summer.

Storm recovery, Moore, OK

A lone tree stands in a field in Moore, Oklahoma, following devastating tornadoes in May 2013. Photo credit: Scott McIntyre, Naples Daily News

Here at the Arbor Day Foundation, after natural disasters strike, we believe first and foremost that the lives, wellbeing, and livelihoods of our fellow citizens is priority number one. Everything else yields to getting people back on their feet with the services, resources, and supplies they need to move forward and begin to rebuild.

It’s well after the initial tragedy of the storm has passed that we begin to work closely with state and urban foresters, community groups, and other tree planting organizations to start the long-term process of restoring the landscape. These organizations pool their expertise – and most importantly, a well-coordinated plan – for bringing healthy trees back to these communities.

Abbie Eisenhart, disaster recovery program manager at the Arbor Day Foundation, points to recent tree planting efforts in other communities – Joplin, Missouri, and Tuscaloosa, Alabama, specifically – as prime examples of long-term actions underway after the storm strikes.

“Around 18,000 trees have already been planted in Joplin,” Eisenhart explained, “with just over 17,500 still to come in the next two to three years in that community.” In Alabama, nearly 70,000 trees have been distributed and planted.

Currently, the Arbor Day Foundation plans to work with foresters and organizations to assess the needs of Moore, Oklahoma, which was hit by multiple tornadoes in late May 2013. Plans for how best to help this community with replanting trees will be announced in the months ahead.

One thing is certain: there seems to be no shortage of natural disasters that will require all of us coming together to rebuild – one tree at a time.

What you can do right now:

Amy Stouffer

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