Retired Santa Rosa broadcast executive Ric Haley was driving west on Highway 12 near Melita Road on Thursday morning, sunroof open, cruising along at 45 mph, “admiring the beauty” of the bucolic landscape, as he often does.
It was about 10:20 a.m. and Haley, 71, had just left his Oakmont home and was headed to his bank in downtown Santa Rosa when, on the side of the road, he noticed an oak tree that was in motion, alarmingly so.
“It was one of those trees that reaches across the highway to give it a cathedral ceiling,” he said. “I said, ‘Oh, my God, that tree is coming down.’”
Haley said he hit the brakes and the tree came down right on top of his gray 2003 Toyota Highlander, which he said he’d kept in pristine condition until Thursday morning.
The roof of his vehicle was partially caved in, his sunroof window and part of his windshield shattered.
He said he felt something hit him on top of his head, but he was not seriously injured.
The tree simply uprooted, coming out of the ground with little resistance, falling across Highway 12.
“The ground was so saturated,” he said. “It didn’t snap, it just rolled over.”
The downed tree blocked westbound traffic for several hours as Caltrans workers removed debris from the roadway.
Both lanes were reopened by about 2 p.m.
You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 707-521-5213 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @renofish.