Driver Ducks as Falling Oak Crushes Roof of Her Car

Her husband heard the crash and noticed the power go out moments after she left to drive to work.

When he went to the window to check, he saw their massive oak tree had uprooted and toppled onto utility lines and onto the road -- on top of her car.

"I see the extent of the damage, immediately, I'm thinking the worst," recalled Blake Matthews as he hugged his wife Gricelda, who survived by scrunching down into the driver's seat even as the oak was crushing the roof of her Honda.

It happened Monday morning on Tamarac Road, outside their Pasadena  home. Gricelda Matthews had just pulled her Honda out of the driveway to head to work. She recalled hearing a cracking sound, but did not see the tree coming down before it was too late.

"It just, 'boom!'" she said.

Her car stopped, and she could see the roof being pushed down under the weight of the tree, mostly on the passenger side, but also above her head, so she lowered herself in the driver's seat. She honked for help. None of the doors would open, so she rolled down the driver's side window, and squeezed out through it.

Her son Brandon, 20, had just come outside to help.  "I see her pop out the window. Thank the Lord, a miracle!'" he said.

Their oak was one of four large trees that spontaneously toppled Monday morning in Pasadena alone, this coming at the tail end of Southern California's rainiest week in years, and to city officials, there was no doubt the rain was a common factor.

"The issue is such over-saturation," said Lisa Derderian of the Pasadena Fire Department. "These trees get top-heavy."

The other falling trees fortunately did not fall on cars or power lines.

Pasadena city crews with chainsaws cut apart the uprooted oak and cleared Tamarac Road by early afternoon. Restoring the downed power lines and replacing a power pole that snapped took several more hours.

Both Gricelda and Blake Matthews both said they already had concerns about their oak.

"I knew something would happen with that tree," she said.

"That was one of my thoughts, that this would happen," he said, worried about the impact of so much rain after five years of drought stressing trees. "But I didn't think it would happen like that."

Oaks are protected by a number of laws in California, but can be trimmed or cut back under the direction of an arborist.

Derderian expressed concern the risk of large trees toppling did not end immediately with the departure of this last in a series of storms -- but with saturated soils, the risk could linger for several more days.

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