The cottonwood tree off Curry and Caroline streets once stood about 100 feet tall.
The 50-year-old tree looked strong, but as tree worker Vernon Markussen and other workers from the Carson City Street Department cut it down Thursday, it proved that you can't judge a tree by its bark.
As the tree split from its base, a cloud of black dust rose from the rotted interior. The crumbled inside of the tree literally spilled onto the ground. The huge cottonwood was being supported by about 4 inches of wood all the way around. The rest of its 5-foot diameter was saturated and rotten.
Markussen dug in and found a wood-eating insect.
Age, insects and weather have caused problems with many trees on Carson's west side. One stump had between 6 inches and 8 inches of wood supporting a tree with a 6-foot diameter on Telegraph between Nevada and Curry streets. The interior was wet and black and crumbled at a touch.
"This would have fallen in a good windstorm," street operations chief Chuck Knowlton said. "It looks stable, but people don't know it could be a danger."
Street workers have been cutting down hazardous trees on the west side of Carson for more than a month.
"We've been taking a lot of flak for taking the trees down," Knowlton said. "People are mad at us for taking the shade, but look at that. It's a safety issue. We're not just tree whackers. We're doing this for a reason.
"Everybody hates it when we start but loves us when we're finished," Knowlton said.
Resident Stan Pochop would agree.
"I think what they're doing is a very good thing," Pochop said. "I've seen a lot of them come down on their own. You hate to see them go, but it can't be helped."
An October 1999 report by city arborist Molly Sinnott found at least 18 trees that needed to be removed immediately. Approximately 50 cottonwood, box elder and silver maple trees lying within city street right of way were rated as hazardous.
About four trees that are hollow in the middle or dead are still to be cut down over the next week.
Wood from the felled trees is taken to the city's corporate yard and cut for firewood.
- Nevada Appeal photographer Bill Husa contributed to this story.