Google Satellite Branches Out Into Log Procurement After Tornados

Almost a year ago, a tornado swept through the St. Louis area. After seeing the destruction, I was surprised no one was killed, and at the same time excited to start salvaging trees. I drove around the first day to get a feel for things, following the trail of downed trees and using bright blue tarps that covered damaged roofs as beacons when I started to stray from the path. The first job was to procure trees before they were cut up, so I had to hustle. It didn’t take long to realize that I was going to have a tough time efficiently covering a 10-mile path.

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I went home that night and decided to look at Google maps in satellite view. I love to look at the satellite view normally, but now I had a reason. I imagined I could generally chart the path and pick out spots with the best trees. What I didn’t imagine is how well it helped me out in identifying specific trees. I was very lucky to find that the satellite photos for the area I was most interested in were taken in the early fall. In the early fall the trees are starting to change and they don’t just look like green blobs in the photos.

The ones that stood out the most were walnuts. They lose their leaves early, so in the photos they were bare. The cottonwoods were bare too, but that was it. I could scan the satellite images and find the bare trees, then go see if they were down. All but two that were down were walnuts. I got some walnuts out of the deal, but walnuts didn’t seem to be the most abundant species. As a matter of fact, I only found one block with a heavy concentration of walnuts, but it got me looking.

After closer examination, I realized that I could see the shape of the tree by its shadow on the ground. It told me if it had a long trunk (good for milling) or a short, bushy shape. The shape really helped me identify cherry. Cherry tends to have a wispy top, without much foliage and very little spread. They also tend to have stems with multiple leads. If they were alone in the photos, I could pick out cherry trees from the top. But, if not, and this is totally cool, I could jump down to street view and see the tree like I was driving down the road. This helped me verify that trees were worth looking at when I got calls from friends.

As I was going back to pick the images for this post, I realized that the photos had been updated and that the path of the tornado is visible from distant views. When I realized that, I took a look at Joplin. Wow! In Google, just type in Joplin, MO and click on the map. It looks like they took the photo within weeks of the tornado and the width of the path and the complete destruction is incredible. For contrast, type in Ferguson, MO and realize how much smaller this tornado was, and it was not small. I could have picked up trees all summer.

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About wunderwoods

Hi! My name is Scott Wunder and I am the owner of WunderWoods Custom Woodworking. We build wine cellars, built-ins and furniture from local woods, here in St. Louis, MO. Recently, I finished a three-year term as the President of the St. Louis Woodworkers Guild, which had me writing a monthly article for our newsletter. I love to write, especially about wood, and found that I still had more to say. Every day I run into something wood related that I realize some of my customers don't know and this seems like a great forum for sharing what I have learned (instead of telling the same story to each person). The main thing to remember is that I try to keep it light and as my wife always reminds people that have just met me, "He is joking."

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