Not everybody saw it, but they heard it: The loud crack. Then they saw it. Tuesday’s forceful winds knocked a tree down on Valencia Street between 21st and 22nd streets, sending it crashing over a car and a red truck, both occupied by drivers.

Strong, 35-mph winds on Tuesday uprooted trees and caused major power outages, creating a dangerous situation throughout the Bay Area. By Tuesday afternoon, winds had knocked down a tree that killed one driver near I-280 and derailed an Amtrak train from the East Bay with 55 passengers inside

Luckily, the tree that fell on Valencia missed the drivers, who escaped without injury, according to residents and businesspeople on the block. By 5 p.m., a dozen firefighters geared up power saws to chop up and clear the tree, which was on its side with its roots up. 

“I felt the energy. People were scared, but some were trying to help the car and get the guy who was inside and make sure he was okay,” said Ben Bektursun, who works at Decamere Supermarket on Valencia Street near 21st Street. “And he was, thank God.”

Bektursun was working at the front of the store when he heard what sounded like “a car crash.”

He dashed outside to see a red pickup under the tree. The driver moved the truck, and the vehicle struggled momentarily before forcefully escaping the heavy load of branches and foliage pinning its bed, according to a video Bektursun took and shared with Mission Local. 

The driver of the truck got out, entered the market, and immediately bought lottery tickets, according to employee Roman Antonian. 

“He said, ‘I’m going to buy two.’” 

Video courtesy of Ben Bektursun.

Kimberley Sawyers, an auto mechanic at SF Auto Works who was watching the firefighters clean up the damage, confirmed the account, noting that the cars were headed north, and waiting for the traffic light. “It was a sound you could not miss. A big-ass tree coming down.” 

But the Mission jumped into help. “The neighborhood sprang into action,” said Nas Johnson, a manager at Ritual Coffee. Customers who sat right by Ritual’s front window and other nearby businesses suddenly rushed out to survey the damage, Johnson said. 

“It was very scary,” Johnson said. “We’re gearing up for more trees to fall, with the wind going.” 

Indeed, a resident on Valencia, Oscar, said another tree had fallen just around the corner. The weather canceled at least one class at City College’s Mission campus, which is on Valencia near 22nd and 23rd streets. Residents reported fallen trees on 17th Street and Treat Avenue, which shattered and severely damaged a black Subaru hatchback. Another tree fell near 25th and Folsom streets. 

“We watched it blow 1, 2, 3 times and then WOOSH,” said Carlos who watched the trees come down, about the trees near 17th and Treat. Carlos’s friend lives nearby under another ficus tree, but it survived the winds.

  • Three large trees or branches lying across the street.
  • Two branches snapped off that have fallen across a parked car.
  • Tree snapped off at the base and lying across the street.
  • A large snapped branch and leaves over a black car.

When Mission Local asked the firefighters to comment at Valencia and 21st, they said they had no time. “There’s, like, 30 trees down all over the city,” one firefighter apologetically explained as his team sawed the tree. “After this, we have to go to the next one.” 

Meanwhile, hundreds of Mission PG&E customers and businesses were without power that afternoon. Johnson noted that Ritual lost power at about 4 p.m., and had closed early, matching the other nearby businesses that were empty and dark. It’s unclear when it will return, according to PG&E. 

One agitated man who owns the building across the street, on the corner of Valencia Street and 21st, wondered if the tree collapse would affect the underground pipes; he ran into Ritual to check if the cafe was out of power, too. “I appreciate you checking in on us,” Johnson told him, as he left. 

“The neighborhood really takes care of each other.”

Check here for power outage updates


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REPORTER. Annika Hom is our inequality reporter through our partnership with Report for America. Annika was born and raised in the Bay Area. She previously interned at SF Weekly and the Boston Globe where she focused on local news and immigration. She is a proud Chinese and Filipina American. She has a twin brother that (contrary to soap opera tropes) is not evil.

Follow her on Twitter at @AnnikaHom.

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  1. I think Waymo needs to call back their driverless cars when we encounter emergencies such as these. There are way too many variables and we don’t need them blocking drivers or emergency vehicles. I say this as someone who has watched a driverless car dash right in front of a firetruck.

  2. That was my husband and my kid in the truck that was struck. They are miraculously unscathed. Thank you to all who reacted and jumped in to help. I am a lucky woman. Fingers crossed now for the lottery results. Hahaha!