A massive, 500-year-old oak tree unexpectedly split in half and toppled into a private roadway in Fallbrook Friday morning, bringing power lines down with it.
The incident happened around 6:35 a.m. on San Jacinto Terrace. As the tree fell, it plowed through a small white fence and into a yard and private roadway of residents.
No one was injured, but power lines were taken down by the enormous falling tree. San Diego Gas & Electric said this left approximately 137 customers without power in portions of surrounding areas including South Fallbrook, Bonsall and San Luis Rey Heights.
A tree company was called to clean up the mess. Workers said the tree, which showed some signs of decay, would take about four hours to remove from the area.
SDG&E said power was expected to be fully restored to customers by about 3 p.m.
Residents who live in the area where the oak tree fell said an arborist had recently visited and verified the tree was more than 500 years old.
Tom Meriwether, who's lived in the area for 30 years, said it's hard knowing the tree will no longer be around.
“I’ve walked by this tree countless times in 30 years. It was a magnificent tree. Obviously very, very old; really a part of the neighborhood,” Meriwether told NBC 7.
“It was a magnificent, beautiful tree and it’s really sad to see it go. It’s like a death in the neighborhood. We’re really going to miss it,” he added.
Meriwether said the roadway in front of the tree serves as a main walking path for residents, many of which take daily walks in the area, himself included.
Resident Mike Lloyd, who's lived in the neighborhood for 62 years, said he and his wife often walk that path and wonder about the old oak tree.
“Every time we walked by, we always thought, ‘That tree is going to fall someday,’ and it did. It’s so big, so enormous – 150 feet across and 500 years old – someday it was going to come down,” Lloyd said.
Lloyd said he often worried about the tree toppling unexpectedly, especially because his wife rides her horse on that roadway on a regular basis and many of his neighbors walk that path.
Looking at it from a safety standpoint, Lloyd said he's glad the tree is now gone.
Still, Meriwether is hopeful that another tree will grow in its place.
He said a tree expert came by and said the roots of the oak tree may still be intact, and could possibly give life to a new tree.
The fallen tree didn't block access to and from the area Friday, so residents were still able to come and go as needed.