By Natalie Kouba
A sudden quake in the sidewalk and startling boom of a large, hollow falling tree left several students quickly scurrying off the pathway lining a small patch of trees as they made their way to and from class. The dead tree collapsed onto the Music Building, injuring no one in the area, but scraping off a few bricks and fracturing the sidewalk below with ease. Catching their breath and clutching their hands to their racing hearts, all the students in the area safely lingered by the fallen sickly tree in awe, without missing a beat to take pictures on their phones and inform the College community at large.
Alyssa Scull, a junior sociology student, dodged the massive tree by a narrow margin as it fell perpendicular to the pathway.
“I was walking down the path toward the Social Sciences Building, and I heard a loud cracking sound,” she recalled. “I didn’t even see the tree falling since it was right next to me, but the next thing I knew, there were branches and leaves all around me.”
No one was injured when the tree fell on Tuesday, Sept. 2, around 3:20 p.m.. However, the inability of an arborist to accurately asses the potential danger of some of the trees could cause concern for an unpredictable environment on campus.
“As any arborist knows, one cannot visually see or know when a tree is hollow unless one performs some type of mechanical drilling or utilizes a tool to measure density,” said David Muha, vice president of communications, marketing and brand management at the College. “Even so, some degree of hollowness in the trunk does not necessarily make the tree a threat.”
This tree in particular was, however, on the College’s radar, as it was next on the list to be removed. Several years ago, Nelson Tree, the College’s arborist, reportedly discovered a significant crack going up the tree when it was alive and suggested the upper third of the tree be cut down. According to Muha, the tree died sometime this past year, but the
still alive when the arborist came to assess it. The College scheduled to remove the tree in the coming year, as indicated by the red band hugging the base of the trunk, but the tree fell before the College had a chance to have the tree safely removed.
Within the next hour, the College removed the dead tree, leaving a jagged perimeter of bark around the decaying stump, which had been so hollowed out with age and rot among the shrubbery. Several bricks, knocked from their places on the academic building, lay on the grass and the area was cordoned off.
Repairs as a result of the damage caused by the dead tree are expected to amount to $30,000, and the College hopes to have the building and sidewalk repaired as soon as possible, according to Muha. The College has already begun to repair the exterior of the Music Building, but how the College can further prevent such incidents in the future is somewhat unclear.
“The College has a proactive tree management program where trees are inspected each year by our arborist, and those that are dead or unsafe are removed,” Muha said. “There are no measures that can ensure that every tree is healthy and safe, unfortunately.”
Recent thunderstorms in the Ewing area last week might have initially been suspected to cause the already weak tree to collapse. After evaluation, however, Muha said that there was no evidence that weather conditions fell the tree.
“The tree was dead and hollow at the base although this could not be seen from the outside,” he said. “It is only visible now that the tree has fallen and one can see inside. There is no evidence of physical damage associated with adverse weather conditions.”
Fortunately, no one was injured as a result of the falling tree, and it was only the Music Building and sidewalk which took a hit. But the incident caused a stir on campus and unpredictable scare for many students going about their typical college routine.
“I didn’t get hurt, but it was way too close and so scary,” Scull said. “Someone could have been seriously injured.”
* Tom Kozlowski, Managing Editor, and Courtney Wirths, Features Editor, contributed to reporting.