JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. (WJHL) — It’s a significant casualty from severe overnight storms: a centuries-old oak that a nearby resident said “sounded like a bomb going off” when it toppled amid the thunder and lightning.
While much of the Tri-Cities endured severe storms and tornado warnings Monday night and Tuesday morning, the Town of Jonesborough received some of the most significant damage, including the fall of what’s known as the Shanks Oak.
In the light of Tuesday morning, Shanks Oak could be seen lying across West Main Street.
The oak tree predated the town and according to the Tennessee Urban Forestry Council was declared a Heritage Tree by the town in 2002, which afforded it protection.
Mark Cruise, the property owner where the tree stood, said the oak was a rich part of the town’s history and people often stopped to take photos of it.
“It’s part of the fabric of our community, and we hate to see it go but for everything, there is a time and a season,” Cruise said.
Shanks Oak stood over 110 feet and was known as a natural landmark in the town.
“[It’s] so closely identified with Jonesborough, the oldest town in Tennessee, and just the longevity of it that it’s been here prior to Columbus’s arrival just means that it’s lived through quite a few centuries,” Cruise said. “So it means an awful lot to the Town of Jonesborough and certainly to us.”
Cruise said it sounded like a bomb had gone off by his home early Tuesday when the tree fell amid frequent flashes of lightning.
“We are mighty fortunate that this tree did not land on our house or our neighbor’s house,” Cruise said. “We consider ourselves very fortunate this morning. It could have been a lot worse.”
Town officials said a specific project has been designated for the cleanup of Shanks Oak.
“Life throws you a curveball every once in a while, and losing the Shanks Oak has been a big curveball for Jonesborough today,” town alderman Kelly Wolfe said.
Wolfe said the Town of Jonesborough is hoping to do something special with the tree for the town and also for the families whose properties it stood on. No official plans have been set, but Wolfe said parts of the tree will likely be saved in some form or fashion.
“The main thing honestly is nobody got hurt, which is an incredible miracle, this thing was a monster over a hundred feet tall, huge tree, it had been cabled together to help it over the years stay together,” Wolfe said. “It was a Heritage Tree for the State of Tennessee.”