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February 9, 1998

Storms bring down several campus trees

A redwood fell onto the Ticket Office roof on Monday, February 2

By Barbara McKenna and Francine Tyler

Recent rainstorms and wild winds have caused a number of trees to fall across campus. Appropriately enough, the most dramatic incident occurred at Performing Arts on Monday when a Douglas Fir tumbled onto the roof of the complex's Ticket Office.

Working inside at the time were Ticket Office manager Suzette Garringer and student worker Sara Edison, who had been listening nervously to the sound of debris falling on their roof for some time. Suddenly, a loud crack captured their attention. "We heard a big crash, and the whole office shook," Garringer said. The top of the tree whipped the Ticket Office roof but was hung up momentarily on another tree in front of it.

Garringer and Edison dashed outside--just in the nick of time. "I had called Campus Facilities to tell them there was a tree ready to fall on our office," Garringer said. "As I hung up there was a loud snap and the tree went the rest of the way down."

The tree splayed across the roof of the Ticket Office and the adjacent E-100 studio, which was empty at the time. "If we hadn't gotten out when we did, we would have been trapped inside," said Garringer. "And if the tree had not gotten hung up for a minute, I hate to think what could have happened."

The tree caused only minor damage to the Ticket Office. The roof of E-100 was punctured in two places by branches from the tree.

Several other trees fell elsewhere on campus in the aftermath of recent storms, inconveniencing people but causing relatively little damage, according to Dean Raven, a supervisor with Physical Plant.

Trees have fallen on Coolidge Drive in two separate incidents within the last two weeks, he said. Another tree fell onto a ramp for the disabled behind the Baskin Visual Arts building.

"For the most part, the damage is minimal when you take into account the magnitude of the storms" that have been passing through the Santa Cruz area, said Raven, who supervises the ground crews responsible for preparing for and cleaning up after storms.

He nonetheless encourages people to be vigilant for falling tree limbs and other objects that may be knocked loose in a storm. "The combination of the high winds and saturated soil has resulted in an unusual number of trees dropping at one time," he said.

Physical Plant carries out a preventative maintenance program designed to "weed out" trees that are deemed to be in risk of falling, said Raven, but the campus takes a conservative approach toward removing trees. "We try to trim back trees showing dangerous growth patterns and reduce the amount of dead wood inside the canopies, but we do have a lot of trees," he said. "The trees that have fallen had shown very little potential for falling."

Raven said the campus tree crew, supervised by Steve Montagne of Physical Plant, did a "remarkable" job of removing the downed trees from the Performing Arts Buildings without causing any further damage. "Both campus tree trimmers, Tom Clark and Ed Bushway, worked for two days at roping off and lowering sections of the trees safely to the ground," he said.

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