Why Are Trees Exploding During Texas’ Freezing Storms?

Why Are Trees Exploding During Texas’ Freezing Storms?

An eerie sound can be heard as Texas faces its worst winter storms since last year’s famed “Texas freeze” – loud pops that sound like gunshots ring out all night. These noises, however, do not come from guns, but from trees. Trees are actually popping when they freeze. “We stayed up all night listening to them.” “It sounds like gunshots are being fired,” Princeton resident Lauren Reber told NBCDFW.

“All of a sudden, there’s a big bang, and two or three more trees are knocked down.” The phenomena of exploding trees is not new, but it is one that many people are unfamiliar with. As the temperature drops, tree sap freezes and expands within the branches of the trees, putting enormous pressure on the interior structure. With nowhere to go and pressures approaching breaking point, the tree’s branches — and occasionally the entire tree – would explode, scattering fragments and crashing to the earth.

Large trees can break vertically in exceptionally cold temperatures, creating a stunning natural thermometer that advises you should probably stay inside today with a great cup of hot chocolate. First Nations peoples, such as the Dakota Sioux and the Cree, observed these explosions and dubbed the first new moon of the year the “Moon of the Cold-Exploding Trees.” 

Temperatures dropped well below zero during last week’s storm, knocking out power lines and forcing folks across Texas to hide down until the worst passed. Roads and infrastructure have been destroyed by falling trees, and while the grid looks to be holding up better than in 2021, 70,000 Texans were without power on Thursday as the hurricane raged over the state.

As of Thursday morning, approximately 70,000 Texans were without power due to severe winter weather, which is moving eastward across the United States. Another 24,000 people in Arkansas have lost power, according to poweroutage.us. These disruptions occur little over a year after major power outages swept throughout Texas, killing over 200 people and raising criticism of the state’s preparedness for colder weather.

“A sustained severe winter storm is predicted to strike much of the central and northeastern United States through Friday night,” the National Weather Service stated on Thursday. A “corridor of significant ice accumulation is predicted from Texas through the Ohio River Valley,” according to the EPA. Hunt, Fannin, and Collin counties in northwestern Texas had the most freezing rain and ice overnight, according to the NWS Fort Worth. On Thursday, the winds are predicted to pick up, causing more tree damage.

Due to prolonged cold temperatures and gloomy skies, several roadways in North Texas are covered in ice and sleet, and the NWS warned that conditions would not improve even if the precipitation stopped. “During the day today, wintry precipitation will move from west to east, but there will be NO MELTING owing to temperatures being well below freezing and sky remaining gloomy,” NWS Fort Worth warned.