Iconic 'tunnel tree' in California felled by storm

The giant sequoia with a hollowed-out tunnel (far left) was left in pieces (above) after it fell in the Calaveras Big Trees State Park.
The giant sequoia with a hollowed-out tunnel (above) was left in pieces after it fell in the Calaveras Big Trees State Park.PHOTOS: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
The giant sequoia with a hollowed-out tunnel (far left) was left in pieces (above) after it fell in the Calaveras Big Trees State Park.
The giant sequoia with a hollowed-out tunnel was left in pieces (above) after it fell in the Calaveras Big Trees State Park.PHOTOS: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

CALIFORNIA • A giant ancient sequoia with a hollowed-out tunnel that drew thousands of visitors each year in California has toppled during heavy rain, according to a non-profit group.

The tree's destruction on Sun- day was followed by the evacuation of thousands of people as powerful storms lashed the western US yesterday.

The Pioneer Cabin tree was "barely alive", according to a volunteer at the Calaveras Big Trees State Park, about 145km east of Sacramento. It was not immediately clear what would become of the sequoia.

The base of the tree was carved out in the 1880s, and it became a tourist attraction. Cars, once they became common, were allowed to drive through it. But in recent years, the tunnel was accessible only to hikers on a 2.4km loop through the park, according to the United States Forest Service.

"The storm was just too much for it," the non-profit Calaveras Big Trees Association said in a Facebook post that included two photographs of the fallen tree.

Mr Jim Allday, a park volunteer who took the photos, told SF Gate, a website operated by The San Francisco Chronicle, that the tree fell around 2pm on Sunday and "shattered" as it hit the ground.

There was no immediate confirmation of the tree's age.

According to the National Weather Service, heavy downpours will drench northern California and heavy snow will continue to fall in the Sierra Nevada mountains today, exacerbating the threat of flooding.

The storms are part of a weather system called the "Pineapple Express" that has soaked a vast area from Hawaii to the typically drought-prone states of California and Nevada.

NYTIMES, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2017, with the headline 'Iconic 'tunnel tree' in California felled by storm'. Print Edition | Subscribe