Wed, Nov 29, 2023 2:05 PM
By ASHRAF KHALIL, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — The National Christmas Tree in front of the White House fell down during high winds but later was hoisted back upright, and its lighting ceremony will go ahead as scheduled.
The tree, a 40-foot-tall (12-meter-tall) Norway spruce from West Virginia's Monongahela National Forest, had been planted just two weeks ago on the White House Ellipse, an area known as President's Park. According to the National Park Service, it fell over around 1 p.m. Tuesday during heavy wind gusts that reached as high at 46 mph (74 km/h) at nearby Reagan National Airport.
NPS spokeswoman Jasmine Shanti said in an email that after “replacing a snapped cable,” the tree was back upright by 6 p.m. Tuesday.
The lighting of the tree is an annual White House holiday tradition with a countdown and musical performances. This year's tree is a new one, replacing an older tree that, according to the NPS, developed a fungal disease known as needle cast, which caused its needles to turn brown and fall off.
None of the 58 smaller trees that surround the National Christmas Tree was damaged. About 20 ornaments fell from the tree but did not break. The NPS announced Wednesday that crews are “installing concrete blocks and additional cables to further secure the tree.”
The annual tree-lighting ceremony will take place as scheduled Thursday at 6 p.m., the NPS said, with musical performances featuring Dionne Warwick and St. Vincent.
Associated Press writer Matthew Daly contributed to this report.