Toppled tree snarls downtown |

Toppled tree snarls downtown

by Scott Neuffer

High winds blew a 40-foot evergreen into power lines in Gardnerville on Friday afternoon, sparking fire in the tree’s branches and showering the street below in sparks.

The teetering tree knocked out power at the stoplight in front of Sharkey’s Casino and in surrounding areas of Gardnerville. Rescue crews were forced to close the section of Gilman Avenue perpendicular to Highway 395 for about three hours.

Pat Gage, owner of Horsing Around Western Gifts and Collectibles, the property from where the tree fell, said she had just left the small gift shop to have chowder at Sharkey’s. While there with some friends, she said she heard an announcement over the intercom that a tree had fallen near the rear of the property.

“My convertible was parked right under there,” she said. “We started walking towards the car to move it and everything exploded – the power lines just lit up. We turned around to run but fell to the ground and tripped over each other.”

Gage said she and her friend escaped the shower of sparks.

Fortunately, Douglas County Sheriff’s officers and East Fork Fire & Paramedic personnel arrived on the scene and were able to move Gage’s and other customers’ cars from the area.

But firefighters couldn’t attack the blaze until NV Energy crews cut off surrounding power lines and isolated the tree. While power crews were working, firefighters checked Gage’s store and reported no damage.

“The energy department had just trimmed that tree,” Gage said. “I’m a total tree fanatic, and I’m going to miss it.”

Within an hour, emergency responders had power back on in parts of Gardnerville and at the stoplight.

However, extricating the giant tree from the power lines proved no easy task. Crews used chain saws to remove the tree piece by piece.

“I hope they don’t crush my fence,” Gage said. “I just built that little thing up.”

Numerous other outages were reported Friday as 60-mph wind gusts whipped through the Valley.

Karl Walquist, spokesperson for NV Energy, said the windstorm had knocked out power from Tonopah to Elko.

Stormy weather knocked down tree branches around the Carson Valley. Accidents were reported at Highway 50 and Spooner Junction and on Highway 88 and Crystal Springs as snow began to fall.