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Saturated Soils Topple Trees

By Nancy Leighton
Heavy rains and strong winds from late fall through early spring have left the ground wet and weak, causing many trees to fall throughout north Georgia, in Atlanta, and here in our neighborhood. On March 25, the lights flashed and repeated booming sounds could be heard as transformers blew out along Custer Avenue. The moist soil conditions from heavy rain the day before and strong winds that day had caused a large tree to fall across Custer Avenue between Funston Street and Benteen Way. The tree on the south side of the street had always leaned slightly over the road. When it fell the top tangled in the power lines on the north side of Custer. The police blocked the road and city trucks drove up to cut the tree and haul it away. Georgia Power workers were still working to get power restored as the sun was going down.
About that same time a tree fell into the bank along Intrenchment Creek about 100 feet west of the Woodland Avenue bridge. The top of the tree just touched the edge of the bank and did not block the stream.
The first week in April another tree went down on Intrenchment Creek on the east side of the Woodland Avenue bridge between Custer Avenue and Napier Street. The huge tree was so close to the bridge that some of the branches came over the railing, damaging it and covering part of the road. City crews had to come out and cut it back from the road. That tree had grown up on the edge of the bank and was at least 50 years old. The top of the tree got caught up in the branches of another tree on the other side, so the trunk did not go down into the stream and block the waterway. The movement of the root ball has disturbed other trees leaving them leaning precariously.
Just off Custer Avenue in the 900 block of Bruce Circle another enormous old tree came down right in the middle of a house. The owner, Heather Sellers, was still sleeping when the tree fell. She was able to escape injury due to a structural characteristic of the house. What looked like an older, small, wood frame house was originally a concrete block house, later covered with aluminum siding. The concrete blocks absorbed the weight of the tree and allowed Ms. Sellers to get out of the house. Engineers from the insurance company have now examined the building and it appears to be cracked all the way through the foundation, so it is likely that it will not be rebuilt.
Additional but smaller trees fell along Custer Avenue during April. Then on April 25, the root ball of the tree leaning near Intrenchment Creek slid down the bank. The branches went out into Woodland Avenue and damaged power lines over the road. The police blocked to road until Georgia Power could repair it.
In a neighborhood with so many beautiful large older trees, the softened soils due to excessive rain will likely result in more trees falling. Unfortunately no one can predict what will come down or which way they will fall on when they land.

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