Close call for residents in Prince George park

·3 min read

A trio of Prince George residents can now be excused if they seem a little wary whenever they're within range of a tree no matter where they may be.

Brendan Murphy, Darren Adams and Tim Gardner are all outdoor enthusiasts and are well aware of the dangers of walking through a forest during a high wind.

But when they gathered for a socially-distanced coffee at Paddle Wheel Park in mid-April, something very unexpected happened.

As they sat within the vicinity of three Cottonwood trees, Murphy began to hear creaking.

"It gradually became more pronounced which caused me to get up and look at it," said Murphy, who was sitting closest to the trees. "Shortly before that, a small twig from near the top fell to the ground between the three of us."

He also noticed the bark to crack open near the base of the middle tree and at that point suggested evasive action. It turned out to be for good reason as it toppled over and then crashed more or less where they had been sitting.

"I said to the others 'this thing is gonna go' and we picked up our chairs and ran, alerting others in the area," Murphy said.

Neither Adams nor Gardner heard the cracking. But Adams said he noticed the bark appearing to twist when alerted by Murphy.

"I then looked up and saw the tree was coming over in my direction," Adams said.

Adams had brought along a drone in hopes of getting a little video along the nearby Fraser River but nixed the idea when he learned it was a no fly zone.

"I jumped up, grabbing for my chair and drone but missed my drone and had to take a step back to get it with only a couple seconds to spare," Adams said.

Gardner said he worried he a large branch would hit him as the tree came down and had one hand over his head while he towed his lawn chair with the other.

"I just wanted to get myself as far away from the trunk of the tree as it was falling as fast as I could," he said.

Murphy suspects the tree's demise had a lot to do with the expansion and contraction it was probably going through due to the overnight freezing and daytime heat typical of that time of year.

At the time, temperatures were swinging from lows of about -3 C to highs of 20 C, according to Environment Canada online records.

Added to that, Murphy also noticed the tree was not in the best of health. When he went over to check the aftermath, he found the core was "sawdust like" and "full of white larvae."

"(The) only thing holding it together was the outer layers of bark," Murphy said.

The downed tree measures about 60 centimetres (two feet) in thickness and about 10 metres (33 feet) in length.

"(The) important thing for public to know is it came down in the absence of wind," Murphy said.

Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince George Citizen