Historic California palm trees come crashing down into ocean amid powerful winter storms

REFUGIO STATE BEACH, Calif. — A severe storm that pummeled California has taken a toll on some of the state’s most iconic trees.

Several majestic palm trees that usually flank the Refugio State Beach just north of Santa Barbara have come crashing down in recent days. Images show how the massive, 100-year-old trees were completely uprooted as they fell into the ocean.

Local officials say a combination of factors caused the trees to fall: several years of beach erosion, combined with powerful high tides and oversaturated soils from the back-to-back atmospheric rivers that brought heavy rains and high winds across the state.

“As the ground gets saturated, the trees start to fall, the eucalyptus, the palm trees, the ground gets so wet with water the roots can’t hold in the ground anymore and the trees come falling over,” Craig VanderZwaag, Santa Barbara County fire battalion chief, told NBC News.

Dena Bellman, district superintendent of California State Parks’ Channel Coast district, said officials have tagged several more trees at the beach that they say are at high risk of falling, especially with a new round of rains hitting California.

Due to this threat, the park is now temporarily closed to the public.

The dramatic images are a symbol of the power of these atmospheric rivers, which climate experts say are intensifying as the Earth’s temperature rises.

Los Angeles has seen 75% of its annual average rainfall in just the first three weeks of February. The city has had more rainfall than Seattle, New Orleans and Miami, and is also only about 2 inches shy of breaking its record for its wettest February.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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