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Heavy wind topples 250-year-old tree at SRJC

  • SRJC maintenance worker Spencer Folz uses a chainsaw to remove limbs from a 250-year-old oak tree on the front lawn of the campus that toppled in the heavy winds on Thursday night. (JOHN BURGESS/ PD)

One of the oldest oaks on the Santa Rosa Junior College campus was felled by heavy winds Thursday night, leaving a void at the gateway to the campus.

The towering 15-ton oak, which was believed to be approximately 250 years old, was in relatively good health when a powerful gust of wind toppled it.

“It’s a sad day,” said Paul Bielen, director of facilities and operations at the campus.

Winds blasting up to 45 mph wrought havoc across the North Coast late Thursday and early Friday, smashing windows, tearing the roofs off barns, and bringing trees and limbs down into power lines and homes.

The storm knocked out power to more than 64,000 households in Sonoma County, 14,400 in Lake County and 3,600 in Mendocino County.

The power outages began to spread across the region shortly before dusk on Thursday, around 4:30 p.m., PG&E spokeswoman Brandi Ehlers said. In Sonoma County, some of the hardest hit cities were Santa Rosa, with 21,655 outages, Sonoma, with 19,110, and Guerneville, with 4,233.

PG&E called in extra workers to respond to the blackouts. Ehlers said 86 crews were working around the clock to repair downed lines and power poles. By Friday evening, power had been restored to all but 1,985 homes in Sonoma County, she said. That included more than 1,000 homes in Santa Rosa and 236 in Glen Ellen.

Fallen tree limbs and downed power lines closed several major roads in Sonoma County to traffic on Friday morning, including Arnold Drive, between Leveroni Road and Petaluma Avenue, and Trinity Road, about a mile from Highway 12.

The strength of the storm was evident when daylight broke at Santa Rosa Junior College. An iconic oak tree, which stood just behind the school’s brick sign on Mendocino Avenue, snapped near its 4.5-foot diameter base.

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