Ice Storm Hits Campus Trees Hard

Looking at ice-laden branches, a longtime Shawnee resident said the ice storm that hit the area in the early hours of Monday morning brought back memories of a major storm which swept up from Texas in early January 1979.

That storm damaged more than 100 trees on the Oklahoma Baptist University campus. On Monday, faculty and staff arrived on the campus in northwest Shawnee to find scores of trees damaged by the overnight ice barrage.

A car travels west on MacArthur Street in front of ice-coated trees at the entrance to Taylor Residence Hall.

“It is a major setback to the campus,” said Johnny Cullison, retired head of OBU’s physical plant who recalls the damage from the storm which moved from central Texas through Oklahoma and into Arkansas and Missouri nearly 29 years ago.

“I worked daylight to dark for a solid week out of a basket truck, topping trees as fast as I could,” said Cullison. “We topped out more than 100 trees, and there were some we lost completely.”

Following that storm, university personnel worked to replace lost trees with new varieties which would be less susceptible to the weight of ice storms. Monday’s storm, which continued sporadically throughout the day, tested the resilience of trees which have survived the last quarter of a century.

“It’s the biggest loss since that storm,” said Cullison, OBU administrator emeritus, who worked at the university from 1970 until he retired in 2003.

On Monday, hardwoods and pines across the campus bowed beneath coats of ice. Trees bordering MacArthur Street sagged. Trees along University Street which were already struggling at daylight sagged more as the day progressed, forming a low tunnel for cars. One hardwood in front of Stubblefield Chapel did not last until sunrise, with its trunk splitting in three different directions.

“It is hard to realize how severely some will have to be pruned,” said Cullison. “They are losing 20 to 25 years of growth.”

OBU did not alter its operating schedule in spite of the storm and a loss of electrical power that lasted more than three hours. Monday was the first day of final exams for the fall semester. University officials had alerted students, faculty and staff late last week that OBU planned to conduct final exams on schedule if at all possible. The semester concludes with Winter Commencement at 2 p.m. Friday in Raley Chapel’s Potter Auditorium.

A tree in front of Stubblefield Chapel split three ways from the weight of ice.