FIFE, Wash. — A tree fell on two cars traveling Wednesday on southbound I-5 near 70th Avenue East in Fife, the Washington State Patrol said. One driver was rushed to the hospital with serious head injuries, authorities said.
The driver, Mary E. Sabetto, 54, of Shoreline, was listed in serious condition Wednesday night at Harborview Medical Center.
Her car, a red Toyota Prius was totaled, the State Patrol said.
A second car was also hit by the tree, but the driver was uninjured, troopers said.
The State Patrol said Sabetto’s Prius was traveling southbound on I-5 in lane two and was stopped due to traffic when a tree on her right fell across lanes one, two and three. The tree came to rest on Sabetto’s Prius. The second vehicle, a Nissan Altima, was in lane three and was also hit by the tree, but it was only slightly damaged and was driven from the scene.
Three right lanes of southbound I-5 were blocked for more than an hour because of the incident, resulting at one time in a 10-mile backup.
The State Patrol listed the cause of the accident as “high wind.”
WSDOT says maintenance crews are out on the roads daily, looking for problematic trees up and down I-5. In fact, WSDOT says crews recently took down a bunch of trees near South Center Mall as a precaution.
Q13 News Chief Meteorologist Walter Kelley says it’s been a record-setting wet winter and spring. Seattle is measuring almost 45 inches of rain between October and April, making it the wettest period since records began.
Back in March, arborist John Zehrn warned of the dangers of falling and diseased trees after a 17-year-old girl was struck and killed by a tree along a trail in Snohomish County.
“A tree right next to you, sure you see that, but you have to realize that there`s a tree that`s a 110 feet tall that`s 90 feet into the forest. And what is that going to do when it falls over,” said Zehrn.
WSDOT asks us to remind everyone that in addition to their daily maintenance crews, they also rely on the public to keep them informed of problematic trees along the roadways. You can click here for a link to report possible problems. If the tree is within WSDOT’s right of way, they handle it immediately. And if it’s not, they say they work with the property owner to take the tree down.