A historic Ebell Park oak tree was felled Friday due to a combination of rain that saturated the ground, wind gusts and probable root damage from the long drought. No one was injured by the falling tree, which landed only inches away from Union Bank on East Main Street.

SP weathers the series of storms that hit state, but historic tree lost

January 25, 2017
Santa Paula News

In spite of rain not experienced in years, Santa Paula pretty well weathered the series of storms that swept through the state leaving other areas flooded and causing mudslides in burn areas.

As of Monday the storm brought 2.14 inches of rain to the Santa Paula area according to spweather.net. The Ventura County Watershed Protection District, which monitors several weather stations in the area and averages them out, reported 1.70 inches had fallen in a 24-hour period ending 8 a.m. Monday, with 5.41 inches falling in the last five days. 

In Santa Paula, there were reports of trees coming down during the early days —with heavy doses — of the rain event Thursday into Friday, including a historic oak that lined Ebell Park.

The tree fell suddenly at about noon January 20, tearing up the sidewalk as it slammed down to the west onto 7th Street, missing the Union Bank building by inches. 

According to Streets Supervisor Rob Howard, the city has been keeping a careful eye on the park’s trees already removing two that were distressed.

“We’d had all the trees checked out and had two bad ones taken out,” but the hard rain, saturated ground and the gusts of wind were too much for the oak, estimated at more than 100 years old.

With the six-year drought, Howard said, “We’ve had roots not going as deep as they should be and some of them have deteriorated, the ground was saturated — it was just too much.”

Santa Paula police and fire personnel responded to the scene but no one was injured. It took about 4-hours for the short-staffed city Streets Division to remove the tree with the help of West Coast Arborists. Seventh Street where the tree fell was already closed due to street work, a coincidence that could have saved lives.

The oak tree will be “100 percent recycled one way or the other…the wood chipping at the park,” is from city trees.

Trees were also reported down at Glen City and McKevett elementary schools.

Howard said there was a drain that plugged and quickly opened, “A lot of water on 5th Street and Highway 150,” as well as 10th Street on Hospital Hill where one video posted on social media showed a trash can racing down the street carried by water.

“We had mud up Cherry Hill from the farmers but other than that we survived pretty well.”

There was one minor traffic accident at about 11 a.m. Friday when a vehicle hit the signal light at 12th and Main streets, a collision believed to have been caused by street flooding. No one was injured.

Santa Paula Fire handed out hundreds of sandbags; Howard said the SPFD had 18 tons of sand as of Saturday.

“All our problems came during the day the weather broke,” the storm Friday. 

“We’re already back out and ready for the next storm,” Howard said Saturday.

Howard had his fingers crossed that the rest of the weekend and into the early week would be rain friendly. 

“If it’s just the rain we’ll be okay but if the wind comes in we could lose more trees.

“We hope for the best,” said Howard, “but prepare for the worst.”

The Flash Flood Warning issued for Ventura County Friday morning was allowed to expire at 1:30 p.m.

Friday’s storm, the second of three systems that hit the county, was expected to continue into Tuesday but by press deadline Monday there were signs the sky was turning blue.

As of Monday, spweater.net reported 5.56 inches of rain for the month, 8.76 inches for the rain year, which began October 1. At one point Sunday the rain rate for a — thankfully — very brief time was more than 2 inches an hour.

The Ventura County Watershed Protection District reported Monday that there had been 1.70 inches of rain during the previous 24 hours; a 5.41 inches total for the past five days.

According to the VCWPD, the latest series of storms pushed Santa Paula’s normal rain to date of 7.91 inches (based on the area’s non-drought and traditional 18.2 inch annual rainfall) to 12.86 inches, a whopping 162.6 percent of normal. Year-over-year there was only 4.88 inches of rain by this date.

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