Ranger Elbert Murray has seen many terrible storms in his 78 years, but nothing like post-tropical storm Fiona left anything but a massive, tangled mess in his woodlands in Pictou County, North Carolina.
“He disappeared and I lost a hundred years,” said Murray, who predicts the forest will regenerate within the next century. “Eventually, he will return to where he was.”
Meanwhile, Murray says he won’t be able to work on his woodlot in Hodson this fall and winter because the damage is too great. So far, he’s only been able to inspect the perimeter of his woodlots, but he expects the damage to be just as severe, if not worse, deeper.
And the only way to get further into the wooded area is to cut his way through the damaged trees, but he has no workers to help him with the work, which can take years to complete.
Murray says that thousands upon thousands of fallen trees will be left to rot.
“He is in a bad condition, very bad,” he said. “The trees will rot in a year or two and then disappear.”
Making matters worse for Murray is the fact that he lost two large barns on his property – as did many other farmers in Pictou County – when Fiona’s strong winds blew in from the nearby Northumberland Sound, flattening the buildings.
One of the barns held all the heavy equipment he uses in the forest area. Many of the logs and beams of the barn were cut from his own trees. Now they lay on the ground under the twisted metal.
At Big Oak Farm in River John, the roof of a barn containing Enid Schaller’s cattle, sheep and hay was blown off, leaving the animals trapped on the lower level due to a fallen tree.
“We came running and were so happy to see them all alive,” Schaller said. “The only injury was that one of our sheep was lame.”
Schaller says the barn’s steel roof hung over the farm.
She’s going to leave 800 square bales of this summer’s hay in what’s left of the barn, even though they’re now exposed and wet. The bales will act as a buffer against rain and snow on the lower level until the barn is replaced, she said. But that also means she will need to buy more hay to feed.
“We never thought that in a million years we would lose this barn,” Schaller said. “It stood for 200 years in every storm and every hurricane and didn’t move an inch, but this one shattered it.”
So when one of Schaller’s cows gave birth this week, the calf was named Fiona.
Dozens of farms in the area were badly damaged, and many of them are still out of power.
“What I have right now is a sense of fear about what will happen this winter,” Schaller said. “I feel so bad for the elderly farmers who are looking at their wreckage and trying to figure out what they are going to do.”