Owl watches over Coxsackie after 2021 microburst

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By Melanie Lekocevic

Capital Region Independent Media

Local residents came out to watch the carving of an owl into the trunk of a 100-year-old tree that was felled in the microburst that tore through Coxsackie in July 2021. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

COXSACKIE — Few people who lived in Coxsackie in the summer of 2021 will ever forget the “microburst” that tore through the village that July.

The storm, determined by the National Weather Service in Albany to be a microburst and not a tornado, ripped through the eastern portion of the village with winds upwards of 90 mph and sheets of rainfall that damaged houses, stripped bark from trees and sent a century-old tree — one of about 100 trees around the village — toppling to the ground.

A microburst is a small, short-lived and concentrated downburst that produces an outward surge of strong winds, according to the National Severe Storms Laboratory.

Miraculously, no one was injured in the brief but violent storm.

This past weekend, the community paid tribute to the first responders and community that pooled their efforts in a multi-day clean-up effort, and to a 100-year-old tree that stood watch over Mansion Street for a century, until the storm ripped its roots from the ground.

The tree, on Mansion Street in front of W.C. Brady’s Sons Funeral Home, fell during the storm and when it was chopped up into large chunks for removal, the roots and a portion of the trunk re-erected itself back into the hole the tree once occupied.

That gave Paul Seney, owner of the funeral home, an idea.

This past weekend, that idea came to fruition when a community block party was held on Mansion Street to view the carving of an owl — the symbol of Coxsackie — into the re-erected tree trunk.

“We are having a community event for the carving of the tree that we couldn’t do last year due to a conflict of interest with another carver that we were going to use,” said Shannon Seney, the funeral home owner’s sister and co-organizer of the event. “So we decided that we would finally get this event together now. We wanted to have a nice community event for fellowship and to show appreciation for our community, for our first responders, our police, our neighbors, our friends.”

The finished product — an image of an owl carved into what is left of a 100-year-old tree in the village of Coxsackie. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

People from around the community brought lawn chairs and sat around munching on free refreshments as a wood carver stood on a lift and using a chainsaw, carved an image of an owl into the tree trunk.

“We just wanted to thank everybody, from little people to the top people who helped,” Shannon Seney said. “We wanted to commemorate the owl, which is the Coxsackie bird. We figured what better way to honor the community and honor the owl with a permanent home.”

Mayor Mark Evans, who spearheaded the storm’s clean-up effort in 2021, said the owl carving is a fitting tribute for the community.

“July 7, 2021, the microburst storm was a day our village will never forget,” Evans said. “This tree, although damaged and cut down, has come back to life. The owl carving will serve as a reminder of that day and what we went through.”

Seney said it is her hope the block party can become an annual event, with perhaps more carvings in the community’s future.

“We are hoping we can do this every year as a community,” Seney said. “And we will try, if possible, to invite the carver back next year to maybe do another owl on the other side of the tree.”

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