High Winds Take Down 10 Trees; City Responds

Powerful winds knocked down at least 10 trees Friday morning in La Cañada Flintridge. Felled trees of varying sizes crashed onto parked cars, damaged at least one home’s roof and rattled nerves. No injuries were reported.

Edward Hitti, LCF’s public works director, said gusty winds — which reportedly clocked in at as much as 66 mph in Altadena — combined with wet, loose soil from the previous weekend’s rain were to blame for the toppled trees.
He also indicated the city planned to consult with its arborist this week to assess other potential causes, including presumably whether the ongoing drought contributed to the multiple collapses.
The trees that came down included a massive deodar cedar that came crashing onto a roof and a car parked in a home driveway on Hillard Avenue. West Coast Arborists crew members were on the scene shortly thereafter, removing most traces of the felled tree.
“Staff and crew are dealing with the urgency for the tree removals and opening up driveways and public streets was deemed applicable,” wrote Hitti in an email, adding that at least three of the felled trees belonged to the city.
Gonzalo Venegas, the city’s facilities and maintenance superintendent, said Friday that additional tree crews were requested to assist during windstorm emergencies and to be available throughout the night.
Around the corner from where the uprooted deodor crashed down, a pair of large trees fell like dominos at a home on Fairmount, smashing onto a gate, landing atop a Honda sedan parked on the street and startling a crew of workers who were on site renovating the home.
“It was scary,” said contractor Joe Torres. “It started going slowly, and it went one on top of the other one. It was pushing really hard, like a tornado.
“You saw the car under the tree? Sometimes we eat there. Thank God there were no people there. Scary.”
He said this as chainsaws whined loudly around him. Members of his landscaping crew were hard at work cutting up the tree so that it could be put on their truck and removed.
Not far away, another “medium-sized” tree fell onto the kindergarten playground at Palm Crest Elementary School, Principal Karen Hurley said. That tree also was removed in short order, as were the branches that blew onto campus. No students were on the playground when the tree came down, falling onto campus from where it previously stood on the adjacent old district office lot.
“We called the district and within 10 minutes, we had a team out there cutting it apart and removing it. It was fast,” Hurley said. “It was really great, we felt very taken-care-of, which is important at a school, where safety is our No. 1 concern.”
She said the school followed typical “inclement weather” protocol, treating the windy day as if it were a rainy day by keeping students indoors while the wind was gusting. A chain-link fence that was damaged was being repaired Monday, she added.
Strong winds are not unusual for this time of year. In the same week five years earlier, there was a memorable windstorm that brought hurricane-force gusts through the region and felled close to 40 trees in the city, according to Venegas.
It could have been worse in 2011, he said, if not for the city’s trim-by-grid program, which schedules about 3,000 of the 12,870 trees within the city right-of-way to be trimmed each fiscal year.
“The city establishes a proactive approach to tree maintenance through [five] pre-designated grids or districts, which are pruned in their entirety on a set schedule,” Venegas wrote in an email, adding that the process generally decreases the need for emergency or service-request pruning.
The benefits of pruning, Venegas said, include reducing the risk of failure, reducing shade and wind resistance and maintaining a tree’s health.
“Proactive maintenance helps prevent liability problems (such as dead or weak branches), which increases public safety, reduces tree mortality and improves the urban forest’s health and value,” he wrote.
He also said the city responds when residents call and report that a tree requires additional trimming.
Hitti encouraged residents to consult their arborists and to contact the city’s planning department if the experts recommend tree removal.

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