The Devastation Wrought by Tropical Storm Hilary and the Forgotten Apple Tree!

When Hurricane Hilary arrived in Southern California on August 20, 2023 as a tropical storm, we residents were as prepared for it as we could be. The news reports besieged us with the seriousness of it for days. My husband Ken, in fact thought the prognosticators were being overly alarmist. In any event, we were warned that a year’s worth of rain could fall in a single event.
Down in the coastal regions of SoCal we mostly weathered the storm fairly well, however in the nearby San Bernardino Mountains, disaster befell those of us with residences along the Santa Ana River. The storm got stuck between the southern ridge of Big Bear’s mountains and Highway 38 to the south. Perhaps eight inches of rain fell on the Santa Ana River watershed in a very short time. This resulted in a massive flashflood. There was the loss of one life, ruination of three county bridges, the public roads were torn away, and homes were lost. There was historic destruction to at least two mountain communities including ours. The roads, water and power were out for weeks. Due to security reasons, we did not share any of this on social media, though Channels 7 and 5 covered the stories as residents were helicoptered to safety.
Two weeks later, over the Labor Day weekend, my daughter, and son-in-law, and I hiked in to survey our home and witness the results of Hilary’s fury. We were relieved to find that our home was intact, though our community was not. After a while, we made our way on foot across the swift waters of the Santa Ana River and climbed up the steep banks carved out by the flashflood. We wanted to visit our nearby neighbors at Seven Oaks.
Our hike that day gave us a first-hand reminder of the enormous power of nature. Hurricanes, floods, fires, earthquakes and typhoons occur around the world with all too frequent regularity. We see the horror of it; just last week the tremendous loss of life due to flooding in Libya. That was on the heels of the disastrous earthquake in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. For us, seeing Hilary’s wrath focused on the Santa Ana River headwaters became an up-close and personally grim reminder of, not only the power of nature, but of the resilience of the human spirit. World aid has come to the African continent, and the first responders in the San Bernardino Mountains were unprecedented in their efficiency. Medics were helicoptered in to spend the night with the victims of Seven Oaks, at least four of whom had to be dug out of the mud.
On the day of our visit we chatted with those who had stayed behind at Seven Oaks to protect it and to feed the animals left behind. Living without power or water, their stories were heroic; of strength in the face of calamity.
Once back at our own mountain community known as Weesha, I had occasion to sit by myself on a rock to process everything I had witnessed. I sat next to a producing apple tree, long ago abandoned by the most serious flood of the last century, the massive flood of 1938. I sat with that little tree for some time. The forgotten tree seemed symbolic to me of the resilience and bravery shown by so many people across the globe in one horrendous situation or another. I felt compelled to write about that tree. It is written as a fairy tale. Ken and our son Rick found it moving. You might too. The link is below if you care to read it. In the meantime, have you been inspired by the bravery exhibited by people you know? I always love to hear what you are thinking about.
My best, donna
A Fairy Tale by Donna Lewis Friess