July 11, 2012 - Oxford's infamous cemetery hill needs a new sign warning motorists to beware of falling trees.
Oxford Twp. Park Supt. Jeff Kinasz uses a chainsaw to cut up the massive limb that fell across W. Burdick St. July 3. Visible in the backgound is the rotted, hollow tree trunk from which it broke off. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
A massive tree limb – approximately 20 feet long and about 22 to 24 inches in diameter – crashed to the ground on Tuesday, July 3, blocking off the westbound half of W. Burdick St. in front of old township cemetery on the road's north side.
The giant limb broke off an old oak tree in the cemetery, the main trunk of which was practically hollow due to significant rotting.
"On the outside, the tree looked healthy – it had lots of green leaves," Dunn said. "Inside, it was a mess. I looked inside and it was like a bottomless pit."
Dunn speculated that high winds from a severe thunderstorm earlier that day, coupled with the extensive interior rot, brought the limb tumbling down.
"There wasn't much there to hold it in place to begin with," he said. "That wind must have been the straw that broke the camel's back."
When the limb came down, some of its branches struck a passing 1994 Buick Regal, driven by Justen Crouse, a 2012 graduate of Oxford High School.
"The branches came and smashed through my (passenger side) window, dented my hood (and) cracked my windshield," he said. "It came out of nowhere. I was shocked.
"I thought it was just a branch that fell on me. I looked back and it's a whole tree. I was like, 'Wow!'"
Fortunately, neither Crouse nor his passenger were injured.
"I'm just thankful no one was hurt here," Dunn said. "This kind of thing could have put somebody in the hospital or worse, in the cemetery. We were really lucky."
Using a chainsaw and muscle-power, workers from the township Parks and Recreation Department cleared the limb from the roadway within a matter of minutes and had traffic flowing freely again.
The rest of the tree will be removed along with two others that are rotted or dead.
This is the second time in less than a year that a falling cemetery tree has done some damage.
In August 2011, Oxford resident Ruth Wright sustained minor injuries when a massive tree limb – estimated to be about 50 feet long and about 15 inches in diameter – struck her as it came crashing to the ground.
Wright was planting American flags around her husband's grave, located in the cemetery on the south side of W. Burdick St., when the limb suddenly split off a hickory tree and headed straight for her.
The tree exhibited some signs of rot at the point where the break occurred, but overall, it appeared to be healthy. As a result of that incident, the township spent $3,540 to have 12 cemetery trees removed.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.