Toppled tree narrowly misses car service lot in SLO - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

Toppled tree narrowly misses car service lot in SLO

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The taller you are, the harder you fall - for trees that is, like the 35 foot oak tree that narrowly missed the service lot of the San Luis Obispo Toyota dealership.

"Those roots can't grab on so they just slide right out," Bill Van Horbek, Certified Master Arborist, said picking at loose tree roots.

Van Horbek explained that when trees die, the structural support tissues made up of lignin and cellulose "leave it," making the tree brittle and weak.

"Here we still have needles on this tree so with that amount of rain that could be enough surface area to be enough weight to pull it over," Van Horbek said.

Making matters worse, the root system of the tree had already begun to breakdown, so with little root left and excess water, it was only a matter of time before the tree toppled.

"The more rain we get the more underground water we have and that could actually kind of liquefy the soil where roots can't hold on, so you see a lot more trees uplifting or dead trees falling in general," he said knocking loose soil off the bare base of the tree.

Van Horbek says during the first few big storms, it's common to see some tree damage like broken branches.  Falling trees usually come after constant storms or with strong winds.

And once trees are down, they can be a danger to residents and removal crews.  "I would call someone to take a look and make sure that it is safe for someone to come by and take care of it - and not have kids go near it cause it can still move now that it's unstable.  It could still shift," Van Horbek said.

Crews worked carefully to remove the dead oak to prevent further damage to the water tank it landed on, a task that took some heavy equipment.  A costly but necessary step.

Van Horbek said most trees should be pruned every two to five years, and trimmed far enough apart to allow wind to pass through more easily. 

Despite the rain, Van Horbek said he and Bunyon Bros Tree Service received fewer than expected calls but said more storms could bring more damage.

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