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Redwood 'snapped at the base like a stalk of asparagus'

By CHRIS COUNTS

Published: December 7, 2012

A SERIES of storms packing a mighty punch pounded the Big Sur coast last week, causing traffic delays, intermittent power outages and property damage.

Highway 1 was closed Sunday night after a slide covered the pavement near Rain Rocks, just a short distance away from an ambitious Caltrans project to reduce the impact of slides on motorists. The road was cleared and reopened the next morning.

The staff at the Henry Miller Library received a scare Monday morning when a huge redwood tree came crashing down in its garden. Library assistant Mike Scutari saw it fall — about five minutes after a library volunteer moved her car from its path.

Nobody was hurt, but the tree “snapped at the base like a stalk of asparagus,” Scutari told The Pine Cone.

“It took out part of the fence, one of our terracotta sculptures, the entire PG&E power pole and not much else,” reported Magnus Toren, the library’s executive director. “The tree fell with almost surgical precision to minimize damage.”

Toren estimated the tree was about 200 feet tall.

The library brought in local tree wizard Tracy Chesebrough to help remove part of the redwood, while PG&E began working on installing a new pole. On the bright side, Toren noted that “there will be some usable wood.” On the library’s Facebook site, Monterey County Planning Commissioner Keith Vandevere made the same observation, suggesting the redwood could provide “plenty of material for a new fence.”

While it’s doubtful the fence will be repaired with wood from the tree, Toren told The Pine Cone he hopes to use some of it create shelving for a collection of Big Sur natural and cultural books. The collection will be named after  late Big Sur historian Jeff Norman.

Toren said much of the tree will remain — at least for now — in the library’s garden, where he suggested it resembles a beached whale. The portion of the tree that covered much of the library’s parking lot has been removed.

Others on Facebook mourned the loss of the majestic tree, including several people who were married beneath it.

“That ol’ tree will be missed,” posted Laura Waldon Louderback, who added that the fallen redwood served as a “great backdrop for our nuptials.”

According to the National Weather Service, from Wednesday through Sunday, 18.27 inches of rain were recorded on Big Sur’s Mining Ridge, which is located at 4,760 feet and is one of Big Sur’s wettest places. At Andrew Molera State Park — not far from most of Big Sur’s resorts and businesses — 7.48 inches were recorded over the same span.

Over the same five-day period, 4.72 inches of rain were recorded in Carmel Valley, while Monterey received just 3 inches of moisture.

A flash flood warning was issued as the Big Sur River rose to a high of 10.51 inches Sunday.