July 25, 2014

300-year-old oak struck by lightning during Rock Hill storm

A 300-year-old white oak tree fell Thursday night after a storm moved through Rock Hill.

The 300-year-old Swing Tree is dead.

Mother Nature and her lightning bolts killed the tree.

The white oak tree that sits on the Knight family property on Allison Circle in Newport, northwest of Rock Hill was hit by lightning during Thursday’s powerful storms. Boring showed years ago the tree was upwards of three centuries old and was nicknamed the “Swing Tree” because of the famous swing that hung from a perfectly horizontal giant branch.

The towering 100-plus-foot tall tree that, when upright, required three or four people to circle its huge trunk was split down the middle of the trunk and fell atop another historic oak.

“I sat on a swing that hung from this tree when I was married,” said Bob Knight, who grew up under the tree’s shade and lives nearby and saw lightning hit one of his trees Thursday. “Generations have played under that tree.”

The tree is so huge that its root ball, sideways, is double the height of Knight.

The powerful band of thunderstorms that knocked down the tree struck parts of York County Thursday night, knocking out power for more than 4,000 people and downing other trees that left some homes damaged.

By 6:30 p.m., York Electric Cooperative reported that at least 3,500 customers living in the India Hook area along Mount Gallant and Twin Lakes roads were without power. Within two hours, crews restored most of the electricity in the area.

About 1,200 city of Rock Hill customers lost power overnight as well, city officials reported.

In Rock Hill, fire crews received reports of trees falling on houses on Ebenezer Avenue and East Black Street, said Rock Hill Fire Battalion Chief Rusty Myers. No injuries were reported, but the homes were damaged.

The National Weather Service didn’t receive too many reports of damage, aside from downed power lines in Rock Hill and Newport, said Jeffrey Taylor, a weather service meteorologist. Winds blew at about 44 mph through the region as the storm intensified when it moved east toward Lancaster County and then upward into Union County, N.C.

Jane Knight, who has lived at the Allison Circle home for more than 50 years, said the Swing Tree that felled by lightning has marked time for her family.

“And now, the tree that we so loved is on her side,” Jane Knight said. “Three centuries couldn’t hurt that tree – but one burst of lightning ended her life.”

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