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National Christmas Tree planted days before massive storm

Sunday - 10/28/2012, 3:26am  ET

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The National Christmas Tree being planted Saturday morning. (WTOP/Jamie Forzato)

National Christmas Tree planted before Hurricane Sandy

WTOP's Jamie Forzato reports.

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Jamie Forzato, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - A new National Christmas Tree was planted Saturday morning - just days before Hurricane Sandy is expected to wreak havoc in the District.

The National Christmas Tree that stood on the Ellipse near the White House since 1978 fell after a windstorm in February 2011. The replacement tree did not survive in the warm, dry weather in the spring and had to be removed last May.

But this time, John Stanwich, the National Park Service liaison to the White House, says he is optimistic that the 28-foot-tall Colorado blue spruce will stay standing, even as gale-force winds approach the East Coast.

"With high winds expected, the horticultural experts really wereconvinced that the best place was to be brought here to the site to be put in the ground," Stanwich says.

The tree was uprooted on Oct. 5 from a site in Virginia and then transported and stored in a box before planting. Stanwich says officials did not wait to plant the tree until the storm passes because the tree would be more vulnerable to storm damage in the container it is stored in.

"Here, it's placed into the ground in a stable situation," Stanwich says. "We have stabilizing wires that will be placed on the tree to hold it."

The tree is also supported by a carefully constructed base covered with mulch and soil that will properly irrigate the area in case of flooding.

Bystanders had mixed opinions about the issue.

Micheál Lynch and his family are visiting from North Carolina. He says he is concerned this tree will not survive like the ones in the past.

"It does seem ironic," Lynch says. "The last one fell victim to a storm and now they're planning a new one just before a storm. Seems like they're tempting fate again."

Maryland resident Jane Johnson and her daughter Megan stopped to watch the crews work. They say it's a great time to plant the tree.

"It makes sense to me," Jane says.

Megan, who currently lives in Miami, Fla., says she has experienced many hurricanes and agrees with the experts.

"I think they're right, she says. "It is safer in the ground to have it firmly planted. It's probably pretty easy to repair the damage afterwards."

The free ticket lottery for the 2012 National Christmas Tree lighting ceremony is available until Oct. 29. The ceremony will be held on Nov. 6, 2012.

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