On Sunday, July 19, three cyclists were injured by a falling oak tree during the Vineman Triathalon in Sonoma County, and one of them is still hospitalized. This kind of thing seemed like a freak accident when I first read about it. As I was reading, I remembered a conversation I had with one of the partners here at GJEL who represented a client who had a tree fall on him. In that case, a truck had backed into the tree the day before, so the tree had a reason to fall over–it was damaged. But the situation with the triathletes seemed like a true fluke.
I sort of let the story slip to the back of my mind, until today, when I saw an article on Press Democrat about falling trees. As it turns out, this sort of thing happens all the time in Sonoma County. Well, maybe not all the time, but enough. According to the article, trees have fallen on and either injured or killed people in Sonoma County five times since February. That’s an average of around once a month. I’m starting to get worried (fortunately I live in Alameda County, where this doesn’t seem to be a problem–yet).
At any rate, it seems that we’re all paranoid now because the recent “tree failings,” as they are called, are injuring people, not because they’re happening more frequently. Press Democrat has arborist Ron Wallace saying, “Tree failures are common, these are just getting noticed.” Perhaps trees are sick of us destroying the forests and have decided to fight back. A more likely culprit, however, is something called sudden oak death, which is a tree pathogen that causes the trees to die, and then to fail.
Arborists explain that there is no way to know which trees will fail without inspecting them individually. Since there are so many trees, this is a fairly impossible task, though Caltrans does inspect and maintain trees along highways. Despite those efforts, the budget cuts needed to balance the state’s budget makes it even less likely that trees will be inspected. I for one, am being very kind to my houseplants and hoping they’ll spread the word to the trees. Just playin’ it safe.