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Sandy socks Md. grower of giant Christmas trees

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DAVID DISHNEAU | November 12, 2012 05:00 PM EST | AP

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HAGERSTOWN, Md. — Some Washington-area customers won't be getting the giant Christmas trees they ordered after Superstorm Sandy buried a Maryland farm in more than 2 feet of snow and snapped many of the 15- to 35-foot firs.

Gale-force winds drove wet snow deep into the boughs of firs at Pinetum Christmas Trees in Swanton, high in the Appalachian Mountains. The snow then froze and pulled limbs from their sockets, said the owner, Marshall Stacy. More than 3,000 trees were damaged, resulting in roughly $40,000 in losses.

"It was like dominoes – one tree came down and hit the next one," Stacy said. He has refunded nearly 70 percent of his orders.

Customers will have to look elsewhere, but there are few farms that sell oversized trees. That's because it takes so long to grow them, said Rick Dungey of the National Christmas Tree Association. Other growers in Maryland's Garrett County said the storm did little damage to their smaller trees.

The Brickman Group, a Gaithersburg-based commercial landscaper, said it found another supplier for the 15 trees that will decorate a corporate office park in Virginia but they are about 3 feet smaller than the 16-footers the company usually provides.

Stacy said the damaged trees can't be sold for paper pulp because their bushy branches – the result of annual trimming – makes them too costly to process. Some of the boughs will be made into wreaths, he said.