MDOT Cuts Down Dead Live Oak Tree - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

01/07/05

MDOT Cuts Down Dead Live Oak Tree

A once majestic live oak was cut down Friday after M-DOT declared the dying tree a traffic hazard.

The centuries old oak was located in the Highway 90 median near Seashore Methodist Assembly in Biloxi. Last month, M-DOT officials told WLOX News there were signs of life and the tree would be spared until next spring. But they changed that decision.

A shroud of fog added a dose of drama to the live oak's last stand. The tree cutting crew worked quickly. M-DOT took a closer look at the tree following our story in mid December.

"We did some further tests on it, did some boring into the tree. And we found it was further along decayed than we originally thought," said Chuck Walters, an environmental scientist with the department.

Walters estimates the tree was more than 80 percent dead. Large limbs that hung over westbound Highway 90 prompted the biggest concern.

"So, all your load is on that side, all this decayed material would cause it to break and fall that way," he said, while pointing to the tree limbs.

Tree cutter Jeff Wilson has worked a chain saw for 20 years. He described the dead wood as "tougher than hardened steel".

"I hate to see them come down, but when they're like that, they've got to though," he explained.

The mostly decayed tree still proved a formidable foe. After a pair of chain saws cut a sizable wedge to drop the remaining section of trunk, heavy equipment was needed to pry the piece loose. It took considerable effort from man and machine, but the once majestic oak that had stood tall through several centuries, could stand no longer.

Once down, a closer inspection of the impressive trunk confirmed the diagnosis of decay.

"You had a very little bit of green right here," said Walters, while inspecting the truck. "It was only about 20 percent alive," he added.

The once prominent oak is no longer a danger to traffic. Still, even those charged with removing it, recognize the loss of something special.

"We lost a little bit of history today. One of these large live oaks. But it was its time. If anything that dies and decays, you just have to go ahead and remove it," Walters reasoned.

The large live oak was weakened by a lightning strike in recent years. M-DOT also found wood boring insects throughout much of the tree.

By Steve Phillips

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