The weekend storm that blew through Palo Alto led to the fall of a treasured live oak tree in the Barron Park neighborhood early Monday morning.
Martha Shirk, 65, a journalist, woke up around 1:30 a.m. Monday to the sound of a crash in her backyard and rushed outside to find the tree down.
She compared the size of the live oak that was the centerpiece of her backyard on Los Robles Avenue to 20 regular-sized trees and was thankful the crash didn’t happen during the day.
"Every time there’s a storm you’re worried about these big oaks," she said.
The rain that accumulated over the weekend weighed down the tree that stood in the back corner of her yard. A next-door neighbor's home was left with some broken windows and roof damage from the fall. (The Weekly's attempts to contact the neighbor have not yet been successful.)
Shirk said she spent nearly $5,000 to prune the tree every three to four years at her two-story home, where she has lived with her significant other for about 20 years.
Multiple arborists have told her the tree could be 150 to 400 years old, according to Shirk.
"This is one of those oaks you spend your life maintaining," she said.
Neighbors dropped by her house this morning and expressed their love for the downed tree, which was one of the oldest in the area, according to Shirk.
The large live oak also drew in a variety of creatures including scores of birds, dozens of squirrels and a resident owl that's been around for five years. She's contacted a beekeeper to remove three separate hives filled with honeycombs and bees.
All that remains standing is the main trunk that was 6 feet wide and a branch the size of a regular tree that she might keep as a sort of tombstone, if it doesn’t pose a risk.
"Anyone lucky to have a tree like this would know a loss like this," Shirk said.
Two Palo Alto public works crews responded to 16 calls of downed trees related to the weekend storm; the most recent one came in this morning from the 800 block of Warren Way next to Oregon Expressway, city Urban Forester Walter Passmore said.
Some trees were uprooted, including ones in the 900 block of University Avenue and at Alma Street and Churchill Avenue near the train tracks, he said.
Passmore wasn't surprised by the combination of windy and rainy conditions that kept crews busy throughout the weekend.
"It seems like the residents were mostly prepared as well, and everyone stayed calm and reported issues as they needed to," Passmore said.