Vicky Hatton was just blocks from her River Road home when a century-old oak came down across her PT Cruiser's path yesterday afternoon.
"It was the tree that I saw first, and I managed to slam on the brakes. I never even gave thought to the wires until they hit," Ms. Hatton said.
The mammoth oak that toppled in the 3400 block of River at about 2:15 p.m. snapped power lines so hard that wires and debris from a nearby utility pole rained on Ms. Hatton's car, trapping her inside for about half an hour until Toledo Edison workers ensured that none of the wires was still energized.
Some of the debris smashed through her sun roof, showering her with shattered glass, but she emerged unhurt.
The incident knocked out power to about 2,000 Toledo Edison customers in the surrounding area of South Toledo for nearly two hours, and contributed to a collision on the Anthony Wayne Trail at Sherwood Avenue where the traffic signals had blacked out minutes earlier. There were no serious injuries in the two-car crash.
Electricity was restored to all but about 20 homes on River at about 4 p.m. Cable television service also was disrupted.
Joe Walter, Toledo's safety director, said he was working at his computer in his 3450 River home when he saw a flash and heard a loud pop. The explosion, audible several blocks away, was from a transformer on an Edison pole that had just taken a direct hit from the tree in his neighbor's yard.
Virtually everyone at the scene marveled at how the tree had fallen on one of the calmest afternoons of the year, following several days of rain and windier conditions.
Daniel South, an arborist with Davey Tree Co., said although he hadn't seen the fallen tree, the recent rain may have softened up the wood in its trunk and added weight to its limbs to just the point required for it to snap over yesterday afternoon. Certain species of oak rot from the center out, he said, so it may not be obvious that a tree is sick until it falls.
The tree, actually half of a twin oak that forked at the base, snapped right at the ground, with no roots yanked from the earth as it fell.
Beth Beech, who was driving north on River while Ms. Hatton was driving south, also saw the oak fall but stopped in time, and nothing hit her car.
"My concern was, 'Who was on the other side, and how's she doing?'●" the Lost Peninsula, Mich., resident said. As it turned out, the two knew each other: both are members of Maumee River Yacht Club.
Ms. Hatton said she had recently read advice about what to do when wires fall on one's car: Stay put and don't touch anything.
"That was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, I hope," she said.
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