Floods

Historic hollowed-out sequoia tree in California topples during rain storm

Thousands left without power and many roads are unpassable

 

A giant sequoia tree in California, most known for the huge tunnel carved through its center, toppled over the weekend during the spate of storms that plagued the northern part of the state.

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The historic Pioneer Cabin in Calaveras Big Trees State Park in Calaveras County fell during heavy rains on Sunday, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The tree was hollowed out in the 1880s to allow tourists to pass through it. Cars later used the massive tunnel, but more recently it has hosted only hikers.

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Jim Allday, a park volunteer, posted a photo on Facebook showing the toppled tree. He said the tree shattered as it hit the ground.

There was no immediate word on what caused the tee to fall, but the Chronicle reports that it probably had to do with the tree's shallow root system and the inundation.

The storms that moved through the area toppled trees that crashed against cars and homes or blocked roads. Officials rescued stranded motorists in the San Francisco Bay Area.

A giant tree fell across the southbound lanes of Interstate 230 in Hillsborough, injuring one driver who couldn't break in time and drove into the tree. A woman was killed Saturday by a falling tree while she took a walk on a San Francisco Bay Area golf course.

There were mudslides and flooding throughout Northern California that led to road closures, especially in the North Bay, one of the areas hardest hit and where the Napa River jumped its banks.

Farther north, the U.S. 395 highway was temporarily closed in both directions in Mono County because of flooding.

Authorities were watching rising water levels of several rivers, including the Cosumnes, Truckee, Merced, American and Russian.

All roads leading to Yosemite National Park's valley floor remained closed amid fears that the Merced River could overflow its banks and cause major flooding.

"It's kind of surreal how empty the park is. There's nobody here," said Gary Kazanjian, a freelance photographer who spent the night in Yosemite and drove out Sunday as part of a caravan of stragglers.

At the Santa Cruz Diner in downtown Santa Cruz customers kept the crew relatively busy. Manager Garin Peck said the restaurant was quiet Saturday but Sunday was a typical day for the diner near the San Lorenzo River.

"A lot of people expected the storm to be a lot bigger and stayed home Saturday night" Peck said. "We were expecting a little more from the storm but so far there haven't been any major problems. I have seen a lot worse."

Forecasters said the storm will begin tapering off late Sunday, but another storm is expected in the area by Monday night.

Relatively mild temperatures were driving up the snowline to above 9,000 feet throughout the Sierra Nevada, causing runoff in the lower elevations, where the ground is already saturated. Forecasters said Sunday it was tracking pretty much as they expected.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.