Large tree falls across W. University Thursday afternoon

A tree fell on two cars on West University Avenue at 27th Terrace on Thursday.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, October 25, 2012 at 2:02 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 25, 2012 at 4:52 p.m.

A large oak tree fell across West University Avenue at Northwest 27th Terrace on Thursday afternoon, injuring a woman who was trapped in a car and blocking traffic for three hours in both directions.

The tree struck at least two cars, badly damaging a Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder, at about 1:45 p.m., officials said. A woman in that car had to be extricated and was taken to Shands at the University of Florida.

Gainesville Police Department spokesman Ben Tobias said the woman was alert and talking to officers before emergency workers took her from the scene. Westbound traffic was diverted at Northwest 27th Street and eastbound traffic at Northwest 28th Street. The road was reopened to traffic around 5 p.m.

Across town at David's Real Pit BBQ, Ann Romney made a pit stop. Tobias said the two events were far enough away from each other that they didn't compound already obvious traffic issues.

"Whether Ann Romney was here or not, when you shut down University (Avenue) for three hours, that wrecks the city. It's a major artery through town."

Officials with Gainesville Regional Utilities, Gainesville Fire Rescue, the Florida Department of Corrections workers and GPD were on scene.

The fallen tree covered the whole street, hit some power lines and damaged a transformer on a utility pole. Some houses in the area were without power for a short time, according to a GRU official.

Workers used saws to cut the large oak tree into removable pieces.

Before it fell, the tree was in the yard of a house at 2718 NW 27th Terrace. Two University of Florida students live there — Mike Fisher, 22, and Gabriel Pimentel, 21. They were in the house, using the Internet, when the tree fell.

They said they heard what sounded like rumbling, but they couldn't quite figure out what it was.

"I thought a car was going to crash into our house," Fisher said. "And then I heard a loud boom."

They ran into their living room, hunkered down and looked around. They heard screeching, looked outside their living room window and saw the tree on the ground, still waving.

"That's our tree, bro," Fisher remembered telling Pimentel.

UF nursing student David Kilgore was driving down University when the tree fell on top of him.

"It happened in a split second," he said, standing next to his damaged car. "I slammed on the brakes and put my hands over my head. Everything was crashing down around me."

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