Now that I am finally all caught up with my travelogues, I can tell you a little bit about what is happening at our current park. Because we served at Fort Frederica last year, I will have to work a little harder to find new things to write about. There is plenty to write about it, but I try to keep it to something you might want to read! Today I want to start by writing about the recent weather here at Fort Frederica National Monument. Specifically, the two hurricanes and one ice storm.
In 2016 Hurricane Matthew hit St. Simons Island on October 7. The last hurricane to hit the island before Matthew was in 1898, so it had been a long time since there was a direct hit. Many of the very old, live oaks in the park fell during Matthew. These trees would have fallen earlier if it had not been so long since a hurricane. They were due to be knocked over. Live oaks rot from the inside out and many of them were dying before the hurricane. The park service hired the removal of some of the largest trees on the town site, but Tom and I spent time last year helping clean up the remaining branches.
With such a long interval between hurricanes, Tom and I were surprised to learn that Hurricane Irma also hit St. Simons Island directly on September 8, 2017. There was a mandatory evacuation of the island and the park was closed for a week. When we arrived at Fort Frederica at the beginning of January, we headed out to see what kind of damage Irma had done. Although few live oaks were toppled with Irma, many of the tall yellow pine trees had fallen. One fell down on the park vehicles, smashing them. Another fell on the herb garden.
The worst damage, however, was to the nature trail. The mile-long nature trail in the park was opened in May, 2017. It is a lovely trail that winds through the pine forest beside the remains of Fort Frederica. Tom and I headed out on the trail the second day we were here, only to discover that we couldn’t find it. There were so many trees down on the trail that the trail had disappeared. The park hired contractors to remove the trees on the main property, but they couldn’t get to the trail in the woods. I don’t know when – or if – the trail will be reopened.
Then, on January 3, 2018, an ice storm hit the island. It rained for several hours and the rain froze as soon as it hit anything. We didn’t get any snow, but everything was covered with ice. No one drove anywhere on the island for two days until the ice melted. But the ice brought down limbs and trees already damaged by the two hurricanes. All day we listened to the crack of limbs falling and hoped that we wouldn’t get one on top of the RV.
The second day was clear, although cold, and all the volunteers were tired of being in their RVs. So we headed out to help our Site Supervisor, Ranger Steve, remove downed limbs from the park. A large pine was blocking the road into the park, so that was first priority. For three hours we moved anything we could by hand. We left the rest of it up to the people who could operate the power machinery.
Most of the park looks pretty good now, although there are still some limbs too high up in trees us to reach with park equipment. We have to hope this is the end of the hurricanes and ice storms for a while.