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Heavy wind topples 250-year-old tree at SRJC

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.

"These are really important trees," said Carl Dobson, an arborist and the junior college's manager of grounds and recycling. "There is so much history these trees have seen."

The tree was among the 10 oldest trees at SRJC and had stood more than a century before the 115-acre campus was established on land once used for experiments by famed horticulturist Luther Burbank. The tree grew in a "heritage tree protection zone" on campus.

"It is a symbol," Dobson said of the campus' 1,000 oak trees, 150 of which are heritage age. "We really value our trees here."

It was unclear Friday morning what would become of the massive limbs and trunk of the tree. Dobson said school officials would likely transplant an oak sapling to the spot where the heritage tree once stood.

In Kenwood, a large oak tree fell and crushed a building used as an office behind a home on Jessie Street, according to Kenwood Fire Department Capt. Darren Bellach.

The oak crashed into the unoccupied building just after 9 a.m. and destroyed the structure, he said. There was additional damage to items inside the office.


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