Updated: Nov 15, 2022
"Ka ʻai nānā i luna."
Even without teeth the wind consumes the food crops.
Said of a destructive windstorm.
Mary Kawena Pukui, ʻŌlelo Noʻeau 1274
Huʻehuʻe Ranch and our little world of plants, roots, and trees (and houses and wires too) were recently ‘visited’ by one of those more and more frequent visitors: a weather event. On the weekend of December 4th and 5th, an intense and sustained storm system brought incredible winds that hit from both Mauka and Makai sides, into our 160-acre property and the surrounding areas with some real force. Rains came as well in huge heaving curtains, weighing down trees and putting ever-more pressure on many shallow-rooted species. What the winds didn’t take down on their own, time and rains brought down in the subsequent days.
The result was both daunting and powerfully memorable. Jacaranda and Silver Oak of huge size went down by the dozen. Splintering because of the weight and the winds, branches, trunks, and entire tree bodies came crashing down both in the gardens and around the houses. No one was injured and we thankfully had no classes running on those days, but walking through the property we were surprised at the amount of damage and of the concentration of the debris. Entire landscapes had been changed, with landmarks that we’ve known for years, suddenly gone. With near misses of huge trunks coming close to hitting both of our homes, we were reminded once again of some of the unpredictable nature of Nature. It wasn’t so very long ago that two huge fires burned further north of us in Waimea, sending ash residue down upon all surfaces. As one local noted, “It isn’t change in the weather that is surprising. It is the speed of the change”.
All will grow back (or not), but right now our forest area can best be described as “cleaned out’ with much of the top canopy having been entirely heaved down. Our forest road had two massive trees fall directly across the access, making it look as though it had been divined, so perfectly ‘across’ were the big trunks.
Electricity went down briefly as wires hung in shreds amidst some of the tottering trees. When we regathered our thoughts, we decided to look upon this event as simply that: an event. We move on and evolve and hopefully learn a little. One of the major takeaways was that large, shallow-rooted tree species that were planted for appearance rather than a purpose (mostly ’invasive”) should probably be taken down anyways. Beautiful perhaps, but utterly useless and dangerous during any major environmental events…and there will certainly be more events. It has been an odd year of drought and concerns of real and potential fires, that end in an intense deluge of water and wind from the skies. It has been a year!
Our food garden was hit hard as papaya and banana trees were ripped out of the earth. Major shade trees on the fringes, which had provided cover from precipitation and sun, disappeared. In their place entire upturned root systems now lie in heaps. A walk through our forest revealed a skyline that has changed dramatically and suddenly huge beams of daylight and sun bolt through huge holes left by fallen trees.
So often we speak about (and learn) about the whole topic of invasive vs endemic plant species on our island and this storm narrated its own little version of this conversation.
We took some drone footage to get a better overview of the forest and the impact of the storm. It was instructive to see in the footage from above how segments of the inner forests had been taken out as though surgically removed. It gave insights too to the channels and avenues that the winds took as though they reached into the forest body to take down specific zones. Always, with everything, there are takeaways.
Meanwhile, we clean, we cut, and we continue to assess what has come down and what might still need to be taken down at Hue Hue. Jacarandas though beautiful, are prone to branch and trunk damage and during this storm that truth was evident. The same was true for the dozens of Silver Oak which came down in swaths. Maybe it is time to restore more native species to the property.
We learn and more importantly, we move on with this little end-of-year ‘cleanse' for the forest is still the place where we can hear and heal ourselves better. We all move forwards, always.
Happy Holidays to you and yours however you celebrate.
The Akahiao Team