No injuries as oak falls onto vehicles in Mount Carmel

Jeff Bobo • Jan 6, 2009 at 12:00 AM

MOUNT CARMEL — A large oak tree fell onto Hammond Avenue in Mount Carmel Tuesday evening and struck two vehicles that were traveling northbound, but miraculously no one was injured.

The incident happened around 7 p.m. about a quarter mile north of the Main Street intersection. Hammond Avenue was closed from the Southern Railroad underpass north to around the Oak Street intersection.

The tree also struck a house and two cars parked in the driveway, broke a utility pole and brought down power lines.

Jack Reed, who lives next door to the house that was struck, told the Times-News he was watching TV when he saw a flash, heard a loud crash, and then the lights went out. The flash was likely a transformer sparking.

Mount Carmel Police Department Assistant Chief Mike Campbell said power was out on about a two-mile stretch of Hammond Avenue.

The tree was about 4 feet in diameter at the base and was estimated as about 200 years old by Reed. It had been leaning a bit over the road, and Campbell said with all the rainfall and the ground being saturated, the root system evidently gave way.

“We’ve got two vehicles in a driveway that are completely covered with tree and power lines,” Campbell said. “The trunk of the tree is actually on the front of the vehicle sitting in the middle of Hammond Avenue. If that tree had fallen directly on that car she (the driver) would have been seriously injured I’m sure.

“The limbs are stretched out far enough that it actually did roof damage to the house.”

Officer Ken Lunsford, who is investigating the accident, said the driver of the car, Amber Lavinder of Mountain View Road in Mount Carmel, was upset but not injured.

“The guy in the truck in front of her came and talked to me for a minute and showed me he had his windshield busted out, but he left before I could get his information,” Lunsford said. “The woman in the car behind him said she was driving down the road and she saw the sparks, and then all of a sudden the tree came down all around her.

“She was very lucky. The trunk missed the front of her vehicle by a couple of feet. If she’d been another 3 feet ahead it would have crushed that vehicle.”

Crews from Appalachian Electric Power were working on power lines late Tuesday. A crew from Mount Carmel Public Works was standing by waiting for the OK from the power company to begin removing the tree.

Because of the size of the tree, Campbell estimated it would take most of the night to remove.

“The power is probably going to be out most of the night, and it stretches a good mile and a half to two miles up Hammond Avenue with no power,” Campbell said. “That’s a large oak tree, and what worries me is right beside that oak tree is another large oak tree leaning. I just hope it doesn’t come down like this one did.”

In addition to Mount Carmel’s weather-related woes, heavy rains most of Tuesday and continuing into the night caused the National Weather Service’s Morristown Bureau to issue a flood watch for portions of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.

The Tennessee watch areas included Hancock, Hawkins, Johnson, Carter, Greene, Sullivan, Unicoi and Washington counties.

The Southwest Virginia watch areas included Lee, Russell, Scott, Washington and Wise counties.

The alert noted that in addition to local flooding of low areas, rain could cause the Clinch, Pigeon and North Fork of the Holston rivers to rise above flood levels.

The chance of rain was predicted to drop to 80 percent today.

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