For generations it had been the iconic symbol of the majestic, ancient trees that populate the great forests of central California. But now the sequoia known as the “tunnel tree” for the opening carved through it in the 1880s is no more—felled by a storm.
“The Pioneer Cabin tree has fallen!” wrote the conservation group Calaveras Big Trees on its Facebook page on January 9. “This iconic and still living tree—the tunnel tree—enchanted many visitors. The storm was just too much for it.”
“It was majestic,” Calaveras Big Trees State Park volunteer Jim Allday told the Associated Press, noting that it had fallen to pieces when it hit the ground. “Now it’s basically a pile of rubble.”
Its age was not known, according to The New York Times, but time had clearly started to wear. Over the years the tree had weakened, volunteer Joan Allday told The San Francisco Chronicle, and had become “very brittle.” According to the Los Angeles Times, the trees in the park can reach up to 250 feet, and some are as many as 1,000 years old.
On top of that, four inches of rain had fallen on Northern California over the weekend of January 7, The New York Times reported. The storms were severe enough to cause flooding across the northern part of the state, the Los Angeles Times reported, closing roads and prompting evacuations. The bevy of winter storms were also forecast to dump as many as 20 feet of snow onto Mammoth Mountain, the newspaper said.
The giant sequoia is related, but not identical to, the redwood tree, according to the National Park Service. It grows “singly or in groups scattered for a distance of 250 miles along the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada in central California at elevations of 4,000 to 8,000 feet,” according to the NPS.