At least 15 giant sequoia trees lost in California wind event

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YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK (NewsNation Now) — In a series of photos, the National Park Service has revealed the damage from a Mono wind event at Yosemite National Park on Jan. 19.

The squeeze of two pressure systems produced winds over 80 mph and toppled at least 15 giant sequoias in the famed Mariposa Grove. And then, the past week brought several feet of snow.

“We’ve never had the destruction that this event brought to our area,” said Mariposa County Supervisor Miles Menetrey.

He also took plenty of pictures because the damage extends well beyond Yosemite.

“The Mono winds came through and literally uprooted trees … snapped trees off. We lost homes, vehicles, power lines. Up to 30 miles of power lines that have to be replaced in our county,” he said.

A spokesman for Yosemite says along with no power, crews are still assessing the property damage and tree losses. One falling giant made a direct hit on a recently-renovated bathroom and boardwalk area. 

The loss of any giant sequoia has a big impact on those who track them closely.

“Seeing one of two of these trees die every decade — or maybe every hundred years — is like, ok, it’s a notable event. But to see all 15 of them go at one time is just unprecedented,” said Todd Dawson, an environmental scientist at UC Berkeley.

The Mariposa Grove is home to more than 500 giant sequoias. This majestic symbol of California can stretch nearly 300 feet towards the sky and date back over 3,000 years.

Where necessary, trails will be rerouted around the fallen.

The partial park closure hit hard since the state recently lifted pandemic restrictions and the area had also lost many other trees during a lengthy fight against bark beetles.

“It’s a beautiful place. We love it here. But between floods, fires, bark beetle and now this mono wind event and now the snow, we just feel like we’ve been beat bad,” said Menetrey.

But with the giant sequoias, experts note that nature can give and take.

“Things will recover, it’s going to take a long time. It’s not going to happen in our lifetimes. But hopefully, it happens,” said Dawson.

According to the Parks Service, none of the losses at Mariposa include any of the named sequoias such as the Tunnel Tree — also known as the Pioneer Cabin Tree. But the damage assessment is still ongoing and it’s not known yet when the Grove will be able to reopen.

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