Legendary 'tunnel tree' falls victim to powerful California storm

Legendary 'tunnel tree' falls victim to powerful California storm
Andrew Freedman

It stood tall for more than 137 years. Yet in the end, the so-called "tunnel tree," also known as the Pioneer Cabin, in California's Calaveras Big Trees State Park could not withstand a storm causing some of the worst flooding in the state in at least a decade.

The tunnel tree fell sometime on Sunday, according to the Calaveras Big Trees Association. 

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"We lost an old friend today," wrote Jim Allday, who posted a picture of the fallen tree, splintered at its base, on Facebook.

Visitors used to be able to drive through the giant gap in the tree, but more recently it was only open to hikers. 

The park is home to giant, ancient trees known as sequoias. These trees can be as tall as 250 feet, and live to an age of more than 1,000 years.

Image of the fallen tree.
Image of the fallen tree.

Image: calaveras big trees association/jim allday

"This iconic and still living tree — the tunnel tree — enchanted many visitors. The storm was just too much for it," the association said on its Facebook page. 

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The storm system hitting California has turned deadly, with heavy rain, several feet of mountain snow and strong winds across a wide swath of the state. Flooding continues on Monday along with heavy mountain snow.

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Some locations have already received more than 20 inches of rain and snow water equivalent, with more to come. While the precipitation is welcome in the drought-stricken state, the fact that the precipitation is coming all at once is a significant concern.

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Yosemite National Park was evacuated over the weekend as waters reached flood stage there, flooding campsites and blocking roads. 

In Nevada, a state of emergency is in effect as multiple days of heavy rain and snow move into the state. Parts of Nevada may see the worst flooding in one to two decades.