But they were a good start.
Hodge was one of many people who turned out Friday in Alexandria for the annual Calhoun County Beautification Board Arbor Day tree giveaway. She was also one of several people who picked up trees not just to beautify their homes but to replace ones lost to the tornado.
“We had trees that were ripped out by the roots,” said Hodge, who lost at least 15 trees from the tornado. “People are still clearing damaged trees up the road from where I live at.”
The tornadoes that tore across the state on April 27 killed many people and damaged property valued in the millions of dollars. But they also damaged or destroyed thousands of trees, including many in the Alexandria and Ohatchee areas.
Matthew McCollough, forestry coordinator for the Alabama Forestry Commission, said there still was not a solid count of the amount of trees destroyed by the tornadoes across the entire state.
“But there were about 5,000 trees lost in Tuscaloosa alone,” McCollough said.
David West, extension coordinator for the Calhoun County Extension Office, which helps the beautification board organize the giveaway, said the tornado damage was on everyone’s mind when the event was set up this year.
“We knew this Alexandria location would probably be busy this time because of the damage and people would need more trees so we brought more,” West said.
Longtime beautification board member Truman Norred said the board brought many older, larger trees this year in anticipation of people seeking replacements for trees destroyed in the tornado.
“Normally we just give out seedlings,” Norred said. “But this year we tried to get bigger trees because the seedlings take so long to grow.”
The organization this year had about 1,000 seedlings to give away this year along with 300 young potted Chinese pistache and Chinese elm trees and 24 larger Bosque elm trees and crepe myrtles. Some of the trees were donated, some were purchased by the Forestry Commission and the beautification board and a few were grown by board members.
The beautification board is not the only group helping to repair Alabama’s natural beauty. Earlier this month, the Arbor Day Foundation and the state forestry commission kicked off the Alabama Tree Recovery Campaign, distributing 30,000 trees to the 16 communities most affected by the tornadoes. Ohatchee received 1,000 trees on Feb. 9, McCollough said.
“We based the number of trees given away on the population of the community,” he said. “We tried to split it up as fair as possible.”
Like Hodge, Connie Ervin of Alexandria stopped by the local giveaway Friday to find replacements for trees she lost during the April storm. She lost about 40 during the straight-line windstorm that occurred early in the morning prior to the tornado.
“They were all hardwoods on the back side of my property,” Ervin said. “It was crazy.”
Star staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star