June 25, 2024 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Storm Damage May Be Delayed: Saturated Soils Can Topple Trees After Rain

The storms that rolled through Southern California this week shook Santa Monica with winds, torrential rains, hail, lightning, booming thunder, toppled trees and even sparked an electrical fire. And although meteorologists are predicting a sunnier weekend, the storms’ effects may be felt in the week to come.

Normally, Santa Monica fairs well during the the actual rain from a storm, explained community forester Walt Warriner. But if a storm dumps a large amount of rain, the soil accumulates that moisture in the following days or even week. When that happens, sometimes all it takes to topple a tree is a gust from the winds pushing the tail-end of that storm.

Warriner said his teams are “bracing themselves” for the days yet to come.

“We’re not out to the woods yet,” he said. “When the soil is that wet, a trees are going to come down.”

Santa Monica already lost as many as five trees Thursday night. The worst of which, was on Bay Street, between 10th Street and Lincoln Blvd, one block south of Pico Blvd. and one block east of Lincoln Blvd. At approximately 8:40 p.m. a large ficus, characteristic of those found throughout the Sunset Park neighborhood, crashed to the ground smashing a 2008 BMW with its trunk and damaging the roof and windshield of another sedan vehicle.

Officers blocked off the street as City workers toiled in the rain until roughly 2:30 a.m. to clear the street for traffic. They returned bright and early the next morning to continue clearing debris and were still working into the early afternoon.

Warriner said there is a misconception that trees have as much root mass as they have canopy, which is not the case. It is typical for California trees to have shallow roots, he said, especially street-lining trees.

On the bright side, Joan Akins, director of community maintenance, said her office has not received many reports for city or private property damage, as far as flooding and winds go.

If there are any more emergencies, Akins and Warriner said for residents to call the Santa Monica Police. SMPD will respond and dispatch city maintenance crews.

“We have a well-trained crew ready to respond to any emergency,” said Warriner. “There isn’t anything the crews from Community Forest Operations can’t handle, these guys are just awesome.”

Christopher Rosacker

Mirror Managing Editorchris@smmirror.com

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