The city’s holiday tree, first erected in Lappin Park downtown on Nov. 29 alongside the arrival of Santa Claus, was taken down by strong winds at about 8 p.m. Sunday night. The tree snapped at its base and fell toward Washington Street, narrowly missing the bronze Samantha statue that serves as the centerpiece for the park.
The tree was originally a 35-foot-tall Blue Spruce harvested from a yard on Marion Road, according to city tree warden Bob LeBlanc. Weighing in at about 5,000 pounds, the tree was installed into a 10-inch steel pipe extending 3 feet underground.
But the 40 to 50 mph gusts that blew through Salem Sunday night proved too much for a tree without roots, according to LeBlanc.
“I guess this is a good example of why trees have tree roots,” he said. “When a tree doesn’t have any ground anchor, even if it’s in a 3-foot hole in the ground, strong winds — especially gusts — can topple a tree, especially evergreens.”
Several of the massive tree’s equally massive glass ball ornaments were also destroyed when the tree came down. Residents and visitors downtown frequently stopped at the felled tree to take pictures, several of which ended up on social media feeds where residents expressed sadness over the incident.
But by 9 a.m. Monday, the tree was being restored to its former glory — though a little shorter, according to Anthony Lauria, an arborist with Beverly-based Iron Tree Services.
“The guys that work with the Department of Public Works had to basically trim off some of the lower branches and carve the bottom of the tree, reduce the bottom of the trunk so it’d fit back in the hole,” Lauria said. “We had to bring in our 60-ton crane, basically. We just hooked it up to the crane, stood it upright and had to put it back in the stand.”
The manicure cost the tree about 3 feet of its original height as well as several lower branches, according to LeBlanc. The spruce is also anchored to a couple of other nearby trees now.
Setting up holiday or Christmas trees this time of year can be a common procedure for companies like Iron Tree, but Lauria said, this was the first time he could recall having to restore a tree like the one in Lappin Park. It took about an hour once the crane arrived, he explained.
“We’ve put a lot of Christmas trees up for the cities and towns, but we haven’t had to come and pick one up that fell,” he said. “When we put it back up, we just had to go as gentle as we could, tried to go nice and slow so nothing fell off.”