Tornado Fells More Than 30 Trees in Glen

On July 26, a tornado touched down on the south side of Hamilton’s campus, uprooting or snapping more than 30 trees along the Kirkland Glen’s Bridle Path and around the Clinton Early Learning Center. Other damage included a destroyed bleacher in the South Campus Intramural Field. Terry Hawkridge, the assistant director of Grounds, Horticulture and Arboretum, has been overseeing the damage clean-up, while Geosciences Technician Dave Tewksbury has created a map of the damage.


Fortunately, the Root Glen and most of Hamilton’s campus was left mostly unharmed by the storm. The tornado formed over nearby Crane Farm and touched down on Hamilton’s South Campus Intramural Field, ruining a bleacher as it swept across the field. It then blew over the adjacent Mason Field, where some soccer goals were swept up and landed in a nearby parking lot. The tree damage started when the tornado got into the pine stand between the Bridle Path in Kirkland Glen and the childcare play yard. In the area between the road, Major and the Early Learning Center yard, nine trees were snapped in half. On the other side of the road, in the plantation area of the Glen, at least 30-40 trees were snapped, completely uprooted, or left leaning into another tree. The ropes course suffered significant damage, and the Bridal Path is heavily obstructed by fallen trees.


Cresswell Brothers Incorporated, a local tree removal company, started cleanup behind the childcare center on Aug. 4 and will soon move onto the ropes course. The damage to the ropes course is particularly difficult to clean up because of climbing spikes with wraparound wires in some of the trees. Hawkridge planned for this phase to be completed by Aug. 15, at which point the team will move onto the Bridal Path with the goal of restoring its functionality by Aug. 22.


Though the damage may appear to be major, Hawkridge explains that the College maintains the grounds very attentively, and the storm’s effects could have been much worse. Hawkridge himself examines many trees every day and makes sure that they are kept “clean,” or that any sick of rotting parts of the tree are removed. When the team spots a potentially dangerous situation, such as an aging tree that could easily fall on parked cars in a storm, the tree is either removed or otherwise dealt with before it can do any harm. He says, “We pay attention to potential decay situations in our large trees so that we don’t get surprised,” especially because trees grow over their decay, making it difficult to recognize.


In response to the tornado and the damage it caused, Tewksbury created a map to illustrate where the fallen trees are. The map relies on Geographic Information System (GIS) software, which the geosciences department employs for a variety of mapping projects. The underlying 3D image of the topography, or land surface, was derived from LiDAR data collected by the Oneida County Planning Office. Tewksbury edited this data to create a 3D land surface without any of the existing trees.


The trails in the Glen, shown on the map in red, were mapped by Lyman Munschauer  ’13 as part of his final project for the GIS for Geoscientists course during the last spring semester. The roads and building data came from the New York State Department of Transportation 7.5 minute Clinton quadrangle; the data is from the New York State GIS Clearinghouse. Finally, the fallen tree data, shown in green, was collected using a Trimble GIS, which is accurate to the half-meter. 


The map was created specifically in response to this storm, and this is the first time in which a map is being generated in response to such an event. Tewksbury explains, “Making this map was an obvious thing to do,” and he initially created it “out of my interest in trying to visualize the damage and extent.” He gave copies to several members of the Hamilton community, and he sent a copy to meteorologist Bill Kardas at WKTV, who passed it on to the National Weather Service group, which was trying to determine whether a tornado had taken place.


In his 35 years at Hamilton College, Hawkridge can only remember four tornados. Despite the rarity of such extreme weather, Hamilton has responded to the damage quickly and efficiently, producing a comprehensive map and setting up a schedule for repairs.

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