A tree located between Northwestern’s Jacobs Center and Lunt Hall along Sheridan Road fell over Thursday afternoon, injuring several people. Credit: YikYak app screenshot

A large tree toppled over on Northwestern University’s campus early Thursday afternoon, Feb. 16, injuring four people, three seriously.

Emergency personnel from the city found four people hurt near 2001 Sheridan Road, near the Donald P. Jacobs Center and Lunt Hall. They had been walking in the area, according to an emergency alert sent to Northwestern students just after 1 p.m. Thursday.

First responders from the Evanston Police and Fire departments transported three people to the hospital, where two were listed in serious condition and the third in critical condition, EFD said in a news release. The fourth was treated for minor injuries but did not go to the hospital.

An EFD photo shows the toppled tree and branches. Credit: Evanston Fire Department

“Evanston 911 Dispatch received multiple reports of individuals who were injured and entrapped by a tree that had fallen on them. First-arriving companies responded within minutes, finding multiple patients lying on the ground alongside a tree,” the EFD news release said. “The medical response was immediately upgraded to bring in additional ambulances to assist with medical care and City coverage.”

All four of the injured are staff members at the university, Northwestern said in a second emergency alert sent out shortly after 2:30 p.m. Thursday.

Evanston parks officials confirmed to the RoundTable Thursday night that the tree belonged to Northwestern and stood on property owned by the university. In a third and final emergency alert, the school said the sidewalk on the east side of Sheridan Road would fully reopen Thursday evening, though additional crews would likely be out finishing the cleanup effort on Friday.

“The University is working with an arborist to determine what caused the tree to fall, and if other trees in the area are potentially compromised. Crews also have been called in to assess and fix damage to nearby power lines,” Northwestern spokesperson Hilary Hurd Anyaso said in a statement to the RoundTable. 

“Our thoughts are with the members of our community who were injured, as we await updates on their conditions.”

Duncan Agnew

Duncan Agnew covers Evanston public schools, affordable housing, City Hall and more for the RoundTable. He also writes long-form investigations, features and the morning email newsletter three times a...

Join the Conversation


The RoundTable will try to post comments within a few hours, but there may be a longer delay at times. Comments containing mean-spirited, libelous or ad hominem attacks will not be posted. Your full name and email is required. We do not post anonymous comments. Your e-mail will not be posted.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Hello from Arborist & Treestorian Scott Carlini.
    This is type of catastrophic structural trunk crown damage has become all too common.

    Specifically underground buttress root system extending radially outbound from trunk “progressively headed back each time sidewalk replaced”.

    By observing damage. Rotton trunk flare wood revealed where tree heaved out of ground is thus evidence of following.

    Cause and effect…
    Either by heavy machinery leaving jagged Root end behind after snapping, rather than cleanly severing major buttress root.

    Or By grinding back buttress root within 2 feet of main trunk. In order to have easier time framing in new sidewalk.

    Which not only creates difficult environment for new roots to begin regenerating from damaged end.

    Severely injured buttress root also rendered defenseless against preventing harmful wood rotting organisms from easily advancing into center core of major trunk.

    This is not recent damage, but certainly could have occurred, first during major building construction then each time sidewalk replaced.

    1. I’m no expert on trees, but it sounds like one element in this accident is that the tree didn’t have enough open ground around it for its roots to thrive and breathe. Some trees native to mesic environments will send roots under sidewalks to emerge on the other side and breathe. If I understand Scott Carlini’s comment well enough, it’s important to not keep replacing the sidewalk and damaging the roots. There are some mature trees in my co-op whose roots have gone under the sidewalk like this and are still doing well. But the sidewalk hasn’t been replaced.

  2. Absolutely heartbreaking. I find this sentence disturbing – “Lawyers for the city and university now have to determine who is responsible for the cleanup effort based on property lines. If the tree formerly stood on Northwestern’s private property, then the school will have to take on that cost, EFD told the RoundTable.”

    Is Northwestern really so petty?

    1. It isn’t about being petty, it ultimately is about who will be held liable when the inevitable lawsuits are filed.