BIG SUR, Calif. -- A wildlife biologist in Big Sur was killed by a tree during a wild windstorm that wreaked havoc in many areas of the Central Coast.
Michael Tyner, 35, of Big Sur, was working for the Ventana Wildlife Society in one of Big Sur's redwood forests when he was struck by tree that toppled over at 2:50 p.m Wednesday.
Wednesday's 40-60 mph gusts caused the tree to uproot and slam to the ground near North Coast Road at mile marker 16.
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"Tyner died instantly from his injuries," the Monterey County sheriff's coroner detective Diana Schumacher said. "A forensic examination confirmed his death was a result of blunt force head injuries."
Tyner's death was the first caused by this week's wind storm, which left a path of destruction across California and Utah.
Tyner was a highly respected field supervisor for the Ventana Wildlife Society's California Condor Recovery Program, based in Monterey.
"It was truly an honor to work alongside Mike," his close friend and co-worker Joe Burnett said.
"He was truly an exceptional biologist, a great friend, and staunch protector of all natural things," Burnett said. "Mike will be dearly missed and his positive impacts on Big Sur’s natural beauty will live on through the condors. I’m almost sure he’s up there soaring with them now."
An avid birder, Tyner graduated from California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo and began studying songbirds along the Carmel River with the society in 2002.
Wind gusts finally eased up on Friday afternoon, blowing at a mere 1 mph in Santa Cruz and 3 mph in Monterey.
This was a big change from Wednesday night, when sustained winds howled at 40 mph and gusts hit 70 mph in Santa Cruz.
At least four homes in Santa Cruz County were destroyed by tumbling trees during the storm. A two-story house in Scotts Valley on Baja Sol Drive had a giant redwood tree slice well into its roof Thursday night. Everyone in the house escaped without injuries.
Several other Scotts Valley residents reported that their cars and trucks were smashed by tumbling trees.
PG&E used a helicopter Friday while attempting to repair power supplies for thousands of Scotts Valley residents and business owners who are sitting in the dark.
Customers in Boulder Creek, Bonny Doon, Watsonville, Corralitos and Freedom are also without power.
Nearly two dozen fires erupted Thursday in Northern California but most were confined to a few acres of land. Low humidity and high winds were blamed for fanning the fires.
KSBW.com is the website for the NBC affiliate in Salinas, Calif.
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