WEST LIBERTY, Ky. - First came an early March tornado that caused extensive damage at a Kentucky Division of Forestry nursery. That was followed by a summer drought without irrigation pipes that were destroyed in the storm.
The forestry agency's mission of helping people conserve tree resources has been sorely tested this year.
The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that one of the state's two tree nurseries was crippled by the tornado that hit Morgan County in March. Several buildings were blown away, as was the nursery's firefighting equipment.
Most seedlings that were 1 to 2 feet tall — about 700 — were largely unscathed.
"The damage came from all the equipment scattered everywhere," said Lynn True, a spokeswoman for the Division of Forestry.
The nursery begins selling trees in winter, and then waits for the right conditions to pull them out of the ground.
"We'll do 60,000 in a day," said Tim Sheehan, forest reserve branch manager.
Then, when things turn cold and snowy again, they spend their time inside bundling the trees together, getting them ready to ship out in January, February and March. The tornado hit right in the middle of shipping season.
"We had a semi-load of trees to be shipped to the western Kentucky nursery and a couple of large planting contractors who do reclamation work on their way to pick up trees," Sheehan said. "In the blink of an eye, you've got no electric, no computer, no phones ... and a pile of steel on all your trees."
In all, the nursery lost about $150,000 in tree orders.
No one at the nursery was hurt, he said. They found a working tractor to pull the debris off bundles of seedlings.
They were able to get a few of those trees out, and many young seedlings in the ground survived, although the tornado sucked the mulch and lighter seeds such as ash and yellow poplar right out of the ground, said Charlie Saunders, the Morgan County nursery superintendent.
Then came the rough summer. The tornado also destroyed $40,000 in water pipes used for irrigating the nursery, which made dealing with this year's drought another challenge.
The next challenge is coming up as the state takes orders for seedlings for dozens of kinds of trees.
The Morgan County nursery has the trees, but it doesn't yet have a place to process them this winter. Bids have gone out for a building, but they will have to use refrigerated trucks to clean and bundle the trees and store them until they can be shipped out.
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