Local 12: Nature still healing after Tristate storm that killed 4

UC study documents recovery of forest damaged by deadly tornado

WKRC-Local 12 highlighted a University of Cincinnati study that documented the recovery of a forest decimated by a deadly tornado 25 years ago.

UC College of Arts and Sciences Professor Theresa Culley told Local 12 that the long-term study found that nonnative, invasive species now dominate damaged parts of the Harris Benedict Nature Preserve, which adjoins the Johnson Preserve in Montgomery.

Blue Ash and Montgomery were devastated by an F4 tornado packing 200 mph winds on April 9, 1999. The storm killed four people and destroyed more than 200 homes.

A bronze plaque features an bas relief of clasping hands above the words 'We're all in this together. 10th anniversary of the April 9, 1999 tornado."

A plaque at the Johnson Nature Preserve pays tribute to the four people killed and the many injured in a 1999 tornado that destroyed 200 homes in Blue Ash and Montgomery.

It also knocked down countless trees in the hilly preserve. UC conducted four botanical surveys of the forest over the last 17 years to document its recovery.

Culley told WKRC-Local 12 that the clearings left behind by the storm gave nonnative Callery pear trees and Amur honeysuckle a chance to take over.

“We always assume nature will rebound and be OK,” she told Local 12.

But Culley said UC's study identified major differences between the damaged forest and the sections left untouched by the tornado.

Culley also spoke with WVXU about the study, published in the journal Ecology and Evolution. She told WVXU that active management of the preserve could benefit biodiversity.

“UC has owned this preserve since 1929. In the past it was really just hands-off, ‘let nature take its course,’” Culley told WVXU. “But we've realized within the last 10 or more years — since the tornado definitely — that we need to do a lot more. We need to be a lot more proactive.”

Some parks across Ohio are taking steps to eradicate plants like Amur honeysuckle to protect native flowers and ground covers that can get shaded out by the nonnative ones.

Featured image at top: UC Professor Theresa Culley, right, shows WKRC-Local 12 reporter Chelsea Sick around the Harris Benedict Nature Preserve 25 years after a tornado devastated the forest. Photo/Michael Miller

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