Had the huge limb fallen any other direction, destruction could have been huge. We have a VIDEO made as cleanup began

DAVID F. ASHTON - After being assured that the power was shut off, arborists and tree crew members began the long job of cutting up, and removing, the 15-ton branch that snapped off this century-old northern red oak tree, and fell into S.E. 34th Street in Eastmoreland, on July 31st. Air conditioning and lighting for many Eastmoreland residents suddenly stopped. The power had gone out, taking the Internet and telephone service with it — just a split second after they heard what was described as an "explosion" at about 11:30 p.m. on Sunday, July 31st.

Some nearby residents thought they'd heard an overworked Portland General Electric transformer exploding from an overload, in the sizzling summer heat wave. However, those who lived near 6824 S.E. 34th Avenue, and who stepped outside to look around, quickly beheld the real cause.

A giant branch (called a "ramus", in botany) had failed and snapped off the main stem of a huge tree, with a mighty "bang" that had echoed widely through the neighborhood streets.

By great good fortune, the branch had fallen directly onto the street. The only causalities appeared to be all the overhead utility lines.

During the massive cleanup that got underway the following morning, some neighbors referred to the tree as a "200-year-old Heritage Elm".

However, in consulting with the Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association Tree Committee Chair Jerry Beatty, THE BEE learned differently. "The original subdivision was largely treeless, since it had been the Ladd farm pasture," he explained. The tree that failed, Beatty said, is not a native elm as some had believed — it's actually a northern red oak — and is likely not much older than 100 years. But, after all, that's still a century!

That age makes sense, since the home at that address was built in 1916, also just over a century ago.

The tree still seemed healthy, and had been regularly maintained — but arborists suggest that it may have just been a victim of the longest heat wave on record in the Portland area; it lasted a full seven days, in late July

With about a dozen tree workers brought in to begin to cut up the fallen branch and haul the pieces away, the work still took them the whole day, and further maintenance on the tree was still occurring days later. The lost limb is believed to have weighed some 30,000 pounds (15 tons). Power was restored later the same day to most customers; and Internet, TV cable, and telephone service were back in a couple of days more. Here's a brief BEE video, made at the scene as the cleanup began —

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