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200-Year-Old Tree Suddenly Falls In Summit Neighborhood, Crushes Two Cars

SUMMIT, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- A massive 200-year-old massive oak tree came crashing down in Summit, New Jersey -- blocking a road and destroying power lines and two vehicles.

As CBS2's Valerie Castro reported, neighbors said the collapse could have been vastly worse. And given that skies were clear, they wondered what caused the tree to come down in the first place.

Late Tuesday, a chainsaw operator was chopping up the tree that caused a serious scare.

"That tree -- we talk about it every fall," said neighbor Daren Fryburg. "It's like 70 bags full of leaves."

The storied old red oak in the backyard of the McFadden home had withstood the test of time.

"It's an amazing tree, over 200 years old," said homeowner Jim McFadden.

But that all changed Tuesday afternoon, when the tree apparently decided it was time to come down.

Seamus McFadden was inside his house on Hawthorne Place in Summit when the tree crashed to the ground in his backyard.

"I thought it was like an earthquake or something. The whole house shakes," he said. "I just heard this loud crashing noise."

Fryburg lives next door, and heard the noise. She said she ran outside and in to her neighbor.

"We just looked at each other, and I said, 'Everybody's OK, right?' and she said, 'Everybody's OK!' and then she just said, 'Look at the cars!'"

The McFaddens' two cars parked in the driveway were demolished – nearly split in half by the toppled tree.

It was unclear what caused the tree to collapse. Weather was not believed to be a factor, as skies were clear at the time.

But one look at the fallen tree and it appears the inside of the trunk is rotted out.

Power lines were also tangled up in the branches and torn down – another casualty along with the cars.

Jim McFadden said the tree was not just old – it had a place in the town's history record books at the Summit Library.

"It's about 94, 95 feet high, and it was almost 20 foot in circumference, so the girth was immense," Jim McFadden said.

Fortunately, the tree missed any homes or people walking by.

"As long as nobody was injured I'm content," Jim McFadden added.

Still, Fryburg said the absence of the tree will be felt.

"It was their whole backyard -- so sad to see it go," she said. "But you know what? It had a good life, and I'm glad everybody's safe."

Homeowners said there is a school nearby, and on a typical school day, many children would have been walking back and forth in the area. Thus, the situation could have been much worse.

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