An unusually strong wind gust may have caused a large tree to fall Monday night, according to a certified arborist who inspected the damage.
Emergency crews were called to the area along Ala Moana Boulevard, across the street from Ala Moana Center, at around 8:30 p.m.
Fire officials say four people were at the bus stop when a tree came crashing down, right onto the structure.
Three were not hurt, however Emergency Medical Services confirms a 19-year-old woman suffered major injuries to both her legs. She was listed in serious condition.
We’ve since learned she is a visitor from Canada, and continues to recover at the hospital.
A flood advisory was in effect for Oahu at the time with thunderstorms in the area.
Kelsey Messmer was at the mall filming the thunder and lightning.
“All of a sudden it went from calm rain to storm, hurricane status. All those palm trees were pretty much bent. We heard a big crash. We thought it was something in the mall. I was filming. I ran down to check it out, and we found the tree right here,” she said.
According to the city, the fallen tree is a yellow poinciana.
The city would not talk to us on camera, so we contacted a certified arborist.
Doug DeMoss says the tree itself was in good shape, but the strength and direction of the winds likely caused it to come down.
He says the yellow poinciana is a fairly common shade tree, and estimates the one that fell to be about 50 years old.
He pointed out that the trees at Ala Moana Regional Park do not have deep roots because of the coral bed underneath.
“Without a tree deep anchoring roots, they’re susceptible to a severe weather event like this,” DeMoss said.
“Was the tree too top heavy then?” KHON2 asked.
“Probably not, no. The parks go through annual maintenance where crowns are reduced, crowns are lifted, all liability pruning. It’s just these things happen,” he replied.
Experts say it was probably one strong gust of wind that not only knocked the tree down but blew away several other branches in the park.
DeMoss notes that instead of the normal trade winds, the storm brought southeast, or Kona, winds.
He also points out that the tree next to the one that fell had lost all its leaves, which would have provided protection.
“It should have a canopy like that. In other words, leaves, the whole canopy. So all that acts as a buffer, so now this has died back and lost all its leaves, so that buffer is not there anymore,” DeMoss explained.
Spokesman Andrew Pereira said city crews began storm cleanup at the park Tuesday morning, and “after checks by the Division of Urban Forestry, there are no plans for tree removals at this time.”
The tree was last trimmed in September 2015, however officials say the tree was inspected as part of a regular tree trimming and inspection cycle at Ala Moana Regional Park back in March. Inspections do not always result in tree trimmings.
Pereira said in a statement: “Tree inspections and trimmings at Ala Moana Regional Park occur regularly, every 18 to 24 months, but can take place sooner if a tree is showing unusual signs. A qualified arborist participates during the tree trimming process and helps identify which trees need trimming and/or which trees are showing any signs of irregularities. In addition, crews from the Division of Urban Forestry make routine checks on trees in all of our parks, and our park groundskeepers will notify DUF if a tree is showing signs of decline.”
He added: “We send our thoughts and well wishes to the young woman who was injured and hope she has a full and speedy recovery. It’s unfortunate that a tree came down during a heavy thunderstorm Monday evening.”