I regularly drive the Southeast McLoughlin Boulevard "tree tunnel" between Bybee and Tacoma streets, where I often see large fallen limbs beside the road. Has one ever hit a car? Who monitors the health of these trees? Should I avoid this route in windy weather? —CC in Milwaukie
I feel you, CC—I get paranoid after the third or fourth day of a speed binge, too. Going through that tree tunnel usually makes me worry more about turning into the giant space baby from 2001: A Space Odyssey than getting hit on the head by a branch, but to each his own.
My initial impulse in this matter—as it so often is—was to tell you to take another Xanax and forget about it. Is not existence itself a gamble? And isn't it true that into every life a little rain (and by "rain," I mean "barrage of deadly 200-pound logs") must fall?
As it turns out, though, you're even safer than the above dice roll would imply. In what I'm sure will be welcome news to milquetoast Portlanders who insist on finishing each day with the exact same number of children they started with, there is actually a city program to prevent precisely the scenario that so worries you.
"Portland Parks & Recreation's urban forestry division has recently taken responsibility over street trees in this area now that the TriMet Orange line runs through [it]," says PPR's Mark Ross. (This is presumably because trains can't easily steer around fallen branches, not because people without access to light rail are half-human savages who deserve to have their populations culled by falling timber.)
Even now, Ross says, crews are working their way through the trees in this corridor, identifying potential hazards and pruning accordingly. In the meantime, anyone with a "tree emergency" should get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 503-823-TREE (8733). I'm still awaiting the launch of 503-823-SPACEBABY—and somebody needs to get on that soon, because I'm pretty sure I've turned into one at least twice.