Los Angeles County Arboretum displays art from windstorm debris

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Live plant curator Jim Henrich remembers last year's powerful windstorm like a nightmare. As the storm picked up, his car shook while he rushed into the Los Angeles County Arboretum to save the plants.

Nothing could prepare him for the strong gusts of wind that bowed trees at a 45-degree angle.

“To see the trees bend as much as they were, I was like, ‘They are going to snap. They are going to snap.’ And to see some of those still standing the next day was mind blowing,” Henrich said.

But 240 trees did snap. Crews piled stacks of wood at the arboretum. Other places dealt with the storm debris by chipping it into mulch. But arboretum officials had another idea—why not give the wood to people who could turn it into something beautiful?

The result is a three-day art show called Forces of Nature that began Friday at the arboretum. Artists crafted sculptures, mosaics and wind chimes. Some proceeds from the art sale - timed to coincide with the anniversary of the storm - will go toward planting new trees.

Artist Henry Koch said he was thrilled when the opportunity arose. He took the arboretum’s fallen maple wood and turned it into bowls.

“I love the idea of reusing wood,” Koch said. “When I hear a chain saw down the street, I drive down looking for it.”

In the arboretum gift shop Barbara Saunders snapped photos, as she and her husband marveled at the art. The Arcadia couple lived without electricity for five days after last year’s windstorm and expressed delight at seeing the fallen wood put into new uses.

“If you had seen this (wood) a day or two after the storm, you wouldn’t have believed any of it” turned into art, Wayne Saunders said.

Entry to the show is free with paid general admission at the arboretum.

Check out our video of the immediate aftermath of the windstorm's affects on the Arboretum last year:

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