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Crashing trees, downed power lines keep crews jumping

— Gusty winds around the Rogue Valley Thursday knocked out power and toppled trees, including a towering ponderosa pine in Medford's Alba Park.

The tree crashed down across Holly Street just before 3:30 p.m.

From the federal building across Eighth Street, U.S. Forest Service employees watched as the tree waved and leaned ever more precariously. The tree is a focal point from their offices, and they said they often watched a red tail hawk land in its top.

Working in a second floor office in the federal building, John Fertig noticed the pine leaning about a half an hour before it fell. I had never seen it lean that much, he said.

Fifteen minutes later, it was leaning even farther and through a monocular, Fertig could see cracks forming in the ground beneath the tree, which he estimated was 120 years old. He called the city parks department to report the trouble, but nothing could be done.

In the Forest Service's front office, Michelle Barnett saw the tree topple and immediately called 911, concerned that passers-by could have been injured.

No one was hurt, but the tree grazed a 2001 Dodge pickup owned by Ed Vandersnick of Eagle Point.

I wish the tree had landed right on it, Vandersnick said, grumbling about the broken windshield, missing rearview mirror and scratches and dents in the one-ton pickup he has owned for only two-and-a-half weeks. I don't even have plates for it yet.

The street was closed for more than an hour while city workers cut up the branches and trunk and dragged them from the roadway. —

The big pine in the center of town was one of several trees to go down in roughly a half hour Thursday afternoon, Medford police officer Tom Sweeney said.

At the corner of Jackson and Oak streets, a massive Colorado blue spruce was uprooted by wind and broke through a bedroom on the corner of the house. No one was home at the time.

At 1224 Mt. Pitt St., Bill Adams was watching TV when a tree just outside his window was blown over.

I thought a car hit the house, then I saw branches waving where there usually aren't any, Adams said.

The bushy tree just clipped the roof of the room where he sat, but blocked one lane of Columbus Avenue until Jay Tower of Corbett Enterprize Tree Service happened by.

We were just taking about trees and this wind, Tower said. This is the first time I've ever arrived on scene like this.

He and an assistant quickly sawed through branches to reopen the sidewalk and roadway. He promised to be back in the morning to take care of the rest of the job, although he expects to be busy.

A tree also fell near the intersection of Peach Street and Janes Road, and some were reported leaning at Linda's Mexican Restaurant on Stewart and at Fourth and Ivy, Sweeney said.

Wind snapped a power pole on Orange Street near the YMCA and smashed a transformer into a playground. Pacific Power spokesman Monte Mendenhall said crews didn't report any environmental hazard from the broken transformer. Some transformers contain hazardous materials.

The damage cut power to 960 Pacific Power customers, including Medford City Hall and Jackson County offices, Mendenhall said. 4:36 p.m. power was restored to most.

Mendenhall reported scattered outages throughout the Rogue Valley. A tree on a line near the Dodge Bridge substation plunged about 400 customers along Highway 62 and in Butte Falls into darkness for about five hours early Thursday morning.

Other areas hit included the Anderson Creek area near Talent, Eagle Point, West Medford, and Rogue River.

The National Weather Service reported 29 mph winds Thursday with gusts to 42 mph. On Mount Ashland, winds blew between 40 and 50 mph with gusts up to 68 mph. The ski hill canceled night skiing because of high winds and forecasts of heavy snow.

Jackson County Fire District No. 5 battled three small fires caused when winds pushed open burns out of control. A row of berry bushes burned on Colver Road, Talent; grass and brush burned on Timber Lake Drive, Ashland; and an escaped fire burned grass on East Valley View Road, Ashland.

A 120-year-old ponderosa pine, one of the city?s oldest, toppled from Alba Park onto Holly Street during Thursday afternoon?s windstorm. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell - Mail Tribune Bob Pennell