Corvallis is known for its beautiful, towering oaks and firs, but that beauty has a dangerous edge when winter storms hit.
Local arborists have had their hands full the past week as snow and ice have cracked limbs, broken off tops and made some trees tumble over completely.
Wednesday afternoon, as the freezing rain subsided and a thaw made tree limbs even more over-laden, tree experts were traveling across Benton and Linn counties, responding to emergency calls.
Tom Cafazzo of Cedar Crest Tree Care has been working with trees in Corvallis for 28 years, and he has never seen an ice storm like the one that hit Tuesday.
"It's real inconsistent," he said of the damage he saw Wednesday. "Some of the trees I've pruned on (in the past) have fallen apart and other trees that have never been touched are doing fine."
Customers luckily have not been panicking, but he's received a lot of calls to check out downed limbs and fallen trees.
The saddest news he heard Wednesday was that one of his favorite trees, a longtime client he called his baby, had toppled in the storm out in Lewisburg.
"I've loved it for years, and it came over," he said. "It was a big ol' oak tree."
Cafazzo had put cables in the tree earlier to try and keep the tree intact, but the ice was too much for the old oak, and it met its end.
Cafazzo recommended that tree owners wait until after the thaw, and then take a good look at the trees in their yard, not just checking for limb and top damage but looking at the tree as a whole.
"Examine the main trunk," he advised. "If it's all splitting, you know, 'Whoa, it's ready to go.' "
The trunk and root systems of trees, as well as the crotch area where branches split from the trunk, are all vulnerable in winter storms.
"That's the area that's real vulnerable," he said. "That's where you can come into some serious problems."
Sometimes, Cafazzo said, trees are weakened by over-enthusiastic pruning.
"I'm an anti-topper," he said of removing the top portion of trees to prevent them from falling in a storm. "But after any wind storm we have, people get arbor-phobia. They start looking at their trees as a hazard, rather than a thing of beauty, and they start hacking away. But they're causing more problems."
Michael Thompson of Urban Tree Care said it's too late for tree owners to do anything now to protect their trees, but instead they should wait until the thaw and call a professional if there's any damage. Right now, even professional arborists aren't doing much more than cutting up trees that are already down.
"We're not climbing trees, we're only cleaning up," he said. "It can be really hairy to climb up them (right now)."
Vernon Esplin of Buena Vista Arbor Care Co., is an internationally consulted arborist and a two-time tree-climbing champion. He advised that until trees are thawed and ice-free, you shouldn't park or walk beneath trees, and especially avoid any tree with limbs that look crooked or if something about the tree looks off-kilter.
"Always treat a possible hazard as a hazard," he said.
For those living in homes with large, ice-covered trees surrounding them, he suggested staying in the center of the house as much as possible. Once the thaw arrives, he said any tree with marginal health or damage should be looked at by a professional.
Esplin has seen most of the damage in the higher elevations, where a heavy snowpack has over-burdened oaks and firs. Evergreens tend to hold more snow because of their increased surface area. His crews also are avoiding climbing trees for now.
"We're removing trees that are already down," he said. "The hangers and limbs will (be removed) in the passing weeks to come."
Esplin's own house wasn't immune to tree damage. He lost two trees and five limbs in this week's storm.