Sacramento’s iconic tree canopy turns destructive in storms

Jan 10, 2023, 10:05 PM | Updated: Jan 11, 2023, 1:33 pm
A fallen tree rests in the middle of a street in Sacramento, Calif. on Monday, Jan. 9, 2023 from a ...

A fallen tree rests in the middle of a street in Sacramento, Calif. on Monday, Jan. 9, 2023 from a passing storm. On a good day, the sun shines in California's capital city and trees of various types and sizes fill Sacramento's parks and line streets. But on a bad one, violent winds knock some of them down, causing them to topple onto cars, homes and power lines. That's what happened over the weekend as wind gusts reached nearly 70 miles per hour in what's known as the "City of Trees." (AP Photo/Sophie Austin)

(AP Photo/Sophie Austin)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — On a good day, the sun shines in California’s capital city — and elms, pines, oaks and hundreds of other tree varieties fill Sacramento’s parks and line streets, fortifying the city’s reputation as the “City of Trees.” But on a bad one, violent winds knock some of the trees down, causing damage to cars, homes and power lines.

That’s what happened in recent weeks as the defining feature that’s normally seen as an asset to the city has given way to destruction and disruption as multiple ” atmospheric rivers ” ripped through Northern California, bringing intense winds and rain.

Wind gusts reached more than 60 miles (96 kph) per hour on Sunday, strong enough to rip massive trees straight up from the root — crashing into homes, toppling cars and even uprooting concrete sidewalk. And as climate change continues to fuel the drought in California, trees are left weakened and more likely to uproot when battling against saturated soil and relentless winds.

Climate change and natural disasters have harmed other tree canopies around the country, such as Hurricane Katrina, which knocked out 10% of New Orleans’ trees in 2005. In more recent years, hotter, drier weather has caused Seattle and Portland, Oregon, to lose tree cover. A rare storm known as a derecho ripped through Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in summer 2021, taking many trees with it.

More than 1,000 trees have fallen in Sacramento since the New Year’s Eve storm, said Gabby Miller, a spokesperson for the city’s Department of Public Works. On Wednesday, city foresters were still determining the full scale of the latest tree collapse. Trees remained sprawled across sidewalks and roadways, some with yellow caution tape haphazardly strung over them or nothing at all, causing at least one crash. Some homeowners and apartment dwellers anxiously waited for cranes and chainsaws to remove trees that fell onto or into their homes.

The destructiveness of the weekend’s storm was on display when Niki Goffard and her boyfriend were sleeping early Sunday morning and a branch hit their house, less than a mile from the state Capitol. They looked outside and saw two trees swaying back and forth.

They debated whether to stay in the house or to leave. Then, they heard a crash.

“Before we could make a decision, both trees fell — one on our house and one on our neighbor’s house,” Goffard said Monday.

Part of the roof above their bedroom caved in and fell on top of Goffard’s boyfriend, causing some minor scrapes and bruises. They had to stay at a nearby hotel as they wait to hear back from their insurance company.

“You never think something like this is going to happen to you,” Goffard said. “It’s been quite shocking and traumatizing.”

In a park surrounding the state Capitol that functions like an outdoor museum of the state’s flora with 400 varieties of plants and trees, the storm toppled a massive pine onto the side of the road and wind smashed fruit off trees and onto the pavement. After, the scent of oranges hung in the air.

Sacramento sits at the confluence of two rivers, the American and the Sacramento. During the 19th century, when officials grappled with flood risk, the city built a levee and put trees on top in a failed attempt to boost its stability, City Historian Marcia Eymann said.

The city’s trees help to cool down temperatures during sweltering hot summers, but also to help control flooding. Tree roots absorb water, and much of the rain water that falls onto their leaves evaporates, the Environmental Protection Agency noted.

“They are the shade and the natural umbrellas for the city,” Eymann said.

Trees toppling over from strong winds and wet conditions in Sacramento are nothing new. In the 1990s, Northern California was ravaged by flooding, tsunamis and earthquakes, Eymann said.

“We’ve had one natural disaster after another, but we always rebuild and always come back,” she said.

Crews from the city’s Department of Public Works are continuing to clean up, focusing first on trees that fell on homes and power lines, Miller said.

“Every single person that can be working right now is working,” Miller said of the cleanup process.

The city usually receives around 500 calls for tree service per month. In the week following New Year’s Eve, that was up to 700, with the city responding to about a third of them by last Friday, Miller said. In recent days, more than 400 new calls have come in, she said.

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District removed more than 300 trees or branches since New Year’s Eve — many of which fell on power lines and power equipment, company spokesperson Gamaliel Ortiz said.

California State Sen. Angelique Ashby, who represents the city, said the recent storms have highlighted the need to be cautious about where trees are planted to limit injuries.

“We’ve gained so much benefit from those big beautiful trees in Sacramento that this is the risk to being the ‘City of Trees,'” she said.

___

Associated Press journalists Adam Beam and Terry Chea in Sacramento contributed to this report.

___

Sophie Austin is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow Austin on Twitter: @sophieadanna

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Norway looks to donate $7.3 billion in aid to Ukraine

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Oil-rich Norway is looking to donate 75 billion kroner ($7.3 billion) to Kyiv as part of a five-year support package that would make the Scandinavian country one of the world’s biggest donors to war-torn Ukraine, the Norwegian government said Monday. Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said the money would be split […]
1 day ago
A woman walks out from a residential building which was hit by a Russian rocket, in the city center...
Associated Press

Russian forces keep up pressure as Ukraine anniversary nears

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian forces are keeping Ukrainian troops tied down with fighting in the eastern Donbas region as Moscow assembles additional combat power there for an expected offensive in the coming weeks, Ukrainian officials said Monday. Weeks of intense fighting continued to rage around the city of Bakhmut and the nearby towns of […]
1 day ago
Political activists Orawan Phuphong, left, and Tatawan Tuatulanon raise a three-finger salute, a sy...
Associated Press

Concern rises for lives of 2 Thai activists on hunger strike

BANGKOK (AP) — Concerns about the condition of two hunger strikers in Thailand seeking political and judicial reforms heightened Monday after the hospital where the two women are being kept urgently summoned their parents. Tantawan “Tawan” Tuatulanon, 21, and Orawan “Bam” Phuphong, 23, have been on hunger strike since Jan. 18 — much of that […]
1 day ago
Leo Pichardo, left, a store associate at Gristedes supermarket, retrieves a container of Tide laund...
Associated Press

Retailers try to curb theft while not angering shoppers

NEW YORK (AP) — When the pandemic threat eased, Maureen Holohan was eager to scale back her online shopping and return to physical stores so she could more easily compare prices and scour ingredients on beauty and health care products for herself and her three children. But that experience was short lived. In the past […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Kenya labor court rules that Facebook can be sued

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — A judge in Kenya has ruled that Facebook’s parent company, Meta, can be sued in the East African country. Meta tried to have the case dropped, arguing that Kenyan courts do not have jurisdiction over their operations, but the labor court judge dismissed that in a ruling on Monday. A former […]
1 day ago
FILE - Text from the ChatGPT page of the OpenAI website is shown in this photo, in New York, Feb. 2...
Associated Press

ChatGPT bot channels history to pen State of Union speech

WASHINGTON (AP) — If you’ve heard it once in a president’s State of the Union speech, you’ve heard it 100 times: There is nothing the American people can’t do when they pull together. But you haven’t heard that thought in a State of Union address from William Shakespeare: “Lo,” said the bard. “With kindness, love, […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Sacramento’s iconic tree canopy turns destructive in storms