By Don Ford

LAFAYETTE (KPIX 5) — Early Wednesday morning, when folks arrived at the Saint Perpetua Church in Lafayette, they discovered a nearly 100-year-old oak tree had fallen over onto one of their buildings.

Brian Gates, the arborist who owns Expert Tree Service, said sometime during the night, the tree slowly came loose at its roots and gradualy toppled over into the school building. Luckily, the damage was less serious than if it had crashed into them.

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Gates says the church school must have a guardian angel,

“A big valley oak fell over and landed on the roof; actually broke one gas line,” said Gates. “They were fortunate enough to shut it off quickly; very little damage!”

Gates and his company specialize in dealing with big trees. This one was nearly 40 inches in diameter. Its removal demanded slow, careful, coordinated steps. Weighing several tons, the trunk was cut away and hoisted over the building by crane.

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The removal of the trunk revealed the reason the massive tree fell over. Its rotten roots pulled up out of the rain-softened soil.

Gates says tree service companies across Northern California have swamped with calls after the recent stormy weather.

“PG&E is running scared and doing a lot of special trimming around power lines and easements. And that’s keeping a lot of guys busy. And they got the fire cleanup up in Paradise, Santa Rosa and all that,” said Gates. “Regular guys here are super busy because of the extra emergency work.”

The school was closed on Wednesday due to the work removing the fallen tree, but was scheduled to reopen Thursday morning.

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That work may not let up any time soon. Later this week, another round of storms is set to arrive in the Bay Area.