Perhaps you’ve seen the news stories about the 21-year-old mother of two who survived for five days, pinned in her truck, after she swerved off a North Carolina road and landed nearly 100 feet below in a ravine? If not, here’s a quick synopsis:
Search and rescue teams combed the 20 mile area around her home. Sections of that road happen to be overrun with kudzu, the invasive vine species that can blanket and choke entire tree stands. Kudzu veiled the ravine far below, obscuring the smashed up truck in which she lay pinned. On the fifth day of searching, one rescuer noticed some track marks into the kudzu, tell-tale signs of tires, gone off the road. Rescuers rappelled down into the ravine behind those tracks, and finally found her.
An amazing story. The focus, and rightly so, has been on this young woman’s will to live, the near-miraculous fact that she made it so long with broken bones, including a skull fracture, and possible internal injuries, without sustenance.
But the environmental reporter in me can’t help obsessing about the kudzu part of the story. If we had found the magic bullet to control this invasive species, if we hacked down vast networks of it, would rescuers have spotted her sooner? Or are there reasons we should let it run wild, reasons having to do with the difficulty of controlling it? Kudzu is notoriously hard to kill. It has an extensive root system. It’s very hardy. And it grows so dense, dense enough to obscure an accident.