Orchard Hill flooding fills bowl, dorms left without water for hours

By Will McGuinness

Toan Trinh

A large tree fell down outside Durfee Conservatory at approximately 3:45 p.m. yesterday, one of its branches smashing through the roof of the greenhouse. Since the impact was not direct, the building sustained no serious structural damage, only several broken glass panes where the branch struck.

Not as fortunate was a pair of trash and recycling cans on the sidewalk, crushed by the massive tree trunk and reduced to bent and twisted metal.

Sarah Gire, a student employee at Durfee, was inside the greenhouse and directly underneath the spot where the branch hit. She was sitting at a workbench in House Five, the easternmost wing, when she heard a popping noise.

“I looked up, and I saw the shadow of the tree falling,” said Gire. “I got up and there was glass shattering everywhere, and I ran out the door. I screamed at the top of my lungs.”

One of those flying shards of glass nicked Gire on the thumb. Luckily, she sustained no other injuries from the incident and nobody else was around to get hurt.

Michael Formosi, director of the Durfee Conservatory, says that the tree falling was completely out of the blue.

“It always looked like a healthy tree,” he said. “You wouldn’t have suspected that it would come down.”

Formosi isn’t sure sure what toppled the green giant. He says it had always grown with a natural slant toward the north, leaning out over the parking lot. But the tree fell eastward instead, parallel to the greenhouse. Though there was a westerly wind blowing yesterday, it wasn’t particularly strong, clocking in somewhere between 8 and 11 mph in the afternoon. In comparison, gale force winds are generally at least 32 mph.

John, a Physical Plant employee, speculated that rot and old age contributed to the tree’s fall. The base of the trunk – now cracked, open and exposed – had in fact been mostly hollow.

Employees from the Physical Plant cleared away the tree later yesterday evening and will replace the broken glass panes. Business goes on as usual at the Durfee Conservatory.

“We’re just lucky that no one got hurt,” says Gire.

“Very lucky,” Formosi agreed.