Unusually Strong Springtime Wind Creating Tree Hazards & Damaging Structures

Wind damage at NNMU building on April 3

Unusually Strong Springtime Wind Creating Tree Hazards & Damaging Structures

ESPAÑOLA    Over the last two weeks the Espanola Valley has experiences several days of strong winds causing damage to various structures around the community. One of the most visible examples is at Northern New Mexico University where the Nick Salazar performing arts building was damaged by recent winds.

Repairs on NNMU building last week

Windy conditions are projected to continue for the foreseeable future and Monday the Santa Fe National Forest issued a warning that strong winds are likely to increase risks from falling trees.  The Santa Fe National Forest urges visitors to use extra caution during recreation activities, especially in areas that have been severely burned by wildfire.

On the west side of the Santa Fe National Forest, trails in the Jemez Mountains are still feeling the effects of the 2011 Las Conchas Fire.  Dead trees are falling in record numbers around Los Alamos on the Canada Bonita trails out to the Guaje Canyon overlook and on the upper portion of Guaje Ridge Trail down to Mitchell Trail.  Trees have also come down on trails in Water Canyon, Cañon de Valle, Pajarito Canyon and Los Alamos Canyon in higher numbers than usual.  

In the Pecos Wilderness on the east side of the Forest, trails affected by the Jaroso Fire in 2013 are also seeing record numbers of falling trees.  Visitors should use extra caution on the Skyline Trail between Horsethief Meadow and Pecos Baldy, the Rito Perro Trail, Jacks Creek Trail north of Round Mountain and south of Pecos Baldy Lake, and the Dockweiler Trail above Beatty’s Flats.

Hazard trees are trees that pose a danger to people or property as a result of structural defects caused by age, fire or disease.  The risk from fire-killed hazard trees is exacerbated by moist soil from the spring thaw, erosion of topsoil and wind. 

The Santa Fe National Forest recommends that all people traveling into wooded areas stay safe by following these suggestions:

·         Remember that falling trees are always a hazard when traveling in the forest.

·         Be aware of your surroundings and look up when hiking on trails.

·         Avoid parking or camping in areas where trees could fall.

·         Avoid dense patches of dead trees.

·         Live trees can also break or fall in high winds, especially when soil is moist.

  • Stay out of the forest when there are strong winds that could blow down trees.  If you are already in the forest when the winds kick up, head to a clearing out of reach of potential falling trees.
  • When driving in remote areas of the forest, park close to a main road rather than on a spur or one-way section.  Carrying an ax or saw in your vehicle will help you avoid being trapped if a tree falls across the road. 
  • Do not rely on cell phones for safety because you may not always have cell coverage in remote sections of the forest.

Wind damage on street signs