Fabian's brutal South Shore legacy

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The South shore suffered the worst damage in more than 1,000 years during Hurricane Fabian's onslaught, according to environmentalist Dr. David Wingate.

And he believes that up to half of Bermuda's trees and vegetation will eventually perish after Friday's battering and it could be two years before the Island's greenery looks as it did.

  • This tree in the Botanical Gardens fell across the road and blocked the road in the park.

    This tree in the Botanical Gardens fell across the road and blocked the road in the park.


The South shore suffered the worst damage in more than 1,000 years during Hurricane Fabian's onslaught, according to environmentalist Dr. David Wingate.

And he believes that up to half of Bermuda's trees and vegetation will eventually perish after Friday's battering and it could be two years before the Island's greenery looks as it did.

He said Fabian's storm surge did the most damage to the South shore, a problem made worse by rising sea levels.

"We are seeing erosion on the South shore worse than anything since the last glacial era 1,200 years ago."

He reported cliff and soil erosion high up on the shoreline in areas previously untouched by storms, removing forests and thickets and leaving rocky coastline.

Non-endemic trees were hit hard while native species stood up much better, said Dr. Wingate.

He told The Royal Gazette: "We should take advantage of this. This is an opportunity to plant sensibly next time around."

Australian casuarinas, Indian laurels and Pride of Indias were quick to perish, noted Dr. Wingate but he said Nonsuch Island, which has exclusively native species, stood up well to the hurricane apart from the young cedars.

He said: "On Nonsuch there is hardly any damage, about two out of about 800 palmettos are down.

"About one third of the cedars are down but they are young trees and very vulnerable for the first 20 years.

"The Olivewood was practically unaffected."

But on the main island the high but shallow-rooted casuarinas went down easily.

"They cause a lot of destruction because they are tall and smash everything in their way," Dr. Wingate said.

The retired Government Conservation Officer said defoliation caused by wind burn and salt spray will continue to degrade the Island's greenery.

"Things will get a lot worse before it gets better. Things will get browner and browner over the next few days with leaves falling off."

The pungent aroma of rotting vegetation and burning leaves will permeate the Island, predicted Dr. Wingate.

And he said further damage will be caused by people removing downed and damaged trees which might have kept growing if left alone.

Park wardens and home owners tended to remove toppled trees because they took up too much space even though some were still viable and could grow in different directions said Dr. Wingate.

He said: "All told, the amount of trees and vegetation in Bermuda will decline by between a third and a half by the time everything is cleaned up."

But he said with a sensible replanting policy it would only take a couple of years before Bermuda looked as it did.

"Tourists coming over two years from now will hardly see any evidence of the hurricane. New trees will be put up and things will recover and re-sprout."

"It's remarkable how quick things recover, even from something as ghastly as this. I am optimistic it will take about two years before things are greened up and looking tidy."

Waves washed away 80 percent of the burrow nests for Cahows at Nonsuch, said Dr. Wingate, but he said the native birds were off the Island and not due back for six weeks.

He is confident the nests can be replaced in time for their return.

Farms also reported massive damage. Nancy Wadson, of Wadson's Farm in Southampton said: "We were pretty much wiped out.

"We had a beautiful crop of tomatoes destroyed." Also perishing were egg plants, squashes and peppers.

"Only the sweat potatoes were OK because they were underground," said Mrs. Wadson.

"The damage has pretty much put it out of business for the next couple of months because we have nothing to sell."

However, she was upbeat and grateful the 70-foot greenhouse which houses herbs and lettuces had survived, despite the roof coming off.

She said: "There's not much you can do so you have to have a sense of humour."

Due to safety concerns Government has closed the following parks until further notice: The Botanical Gardens, on South Shore in Paget, the Arboretum on Montpelier Road, Devonshire, and Fort St. Catherine, St. George's.

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