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The Devil in 2012

December 28, 2012

‘Devils Windstorm’ wreaks havoc in the forest

A freak windstorm that took out tens of thousands of mature pine in the Reds Meadow area on the night of Nov. 30, 2011 might seem like last year’s story and not fit for this anthology.

But the repercussion from that night’s windstorm could well come back to haunt Mammoth and other affected parts of the Eastern Sierra for decades to come.

On the night of Nov. 30 and into the cold dark hours of the morning of Dec. 1, tens of thousands of giant, 100-foot-tall-plus trees crashed to the ground, the victim of a once-in-a-century freak windstorm that would later be named, appropriately enough, the Devils Windstorm.

Campgrounds lay buried under hundreds of jack-knifed trees piled 20 and 30 feet deep. Uprooted trees, roots as big as houses, towered over tiny bathrooms, crushed bear boxes, and splintered picnic tables.

The road to Reds Meadow was impassible, covered with dozens of trees just in the first few miles, trees that dented the pavement with the force of their weight and fall and destroyed sections of the road.

Trails, including the famous John Muir and the Pacific Crest trail sections that run through Reds Meadow Valley, were covered with trees piled on top of each other tens of feet deep, sometimes with as many as 500 trees in a mile.

Although the area’s roads, campgrounds and trails did open in time for the all-important July 4 holiday, the Devils Windstorm may yet come back to haunt the Eastern Sierra.

So many huge trees came down that night that they are still stacked dozens deep in piles as high as a house, not far from the borders of Mammoth. The amount of time and money it will take to clear out such a formidable source of potential fire fuel is beyond what federal and state and local land managers can handle, at least as of this time.

When the piles dry, they will present a formidable fire danger that may be not mitigated for decades.

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