Driver describes I-76 after tree topples onto SEPTA bus: 'Wood chips and parts of branches everywhere'

Alex Hernandez has commuted on Interstate 76 for two years, but Friday was the first time he’s had to slam on his brakes to avoid a tree that fell victim to a powerful nor’easter and toppled onto a SEPTA bus on the busy highway.

“I’ve seen a lot in those two years, but nothing like this,” said Hernandez, who lives in Manayunk and works as an office coordinator in Downingtown.

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Cars came to a halt after the massive tree barreled from the side of the road and landed on top of the bus and made its way onto the left eastbound lane. Four minor injuries were reported among the 14 passengers traveling on the Route 125 bus.

Hernandez said he saw the incident only because he left work early. His office lost power.

“We had passed the ‘Conshy curve,’ if you will, and I was minding my own business and the next thing I know, I see all this snow fly through the air,” he said.

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The powder settled when he realized that the tree had landed just a stone’s throw away from his car. Hernandez said people around him immediately whipped out their phones to call police.

“You could see that [bus] passengers were confused and didn’t know what to do,” he said. “There were wood chips and parts of branches everywhere.”

Though, the fall did damage one vehicle traveling eastbound, according to Twitter user @PharoahhhFarrah.

The tree dented the front of her company car and cracked its windshield while she was coming home from work, she said in a message. She did not sustain any serious injuries.

Safety officials are monitoring the lingering coastal storm bringing dangerous winds, drenching rain and snow across the region. By late afternoon, the storm was already responsible for transit problems, flight delays and widespread power outages.

A large tree in Rittenhouse Square also toppled over, while Valley Forge National Park was forced to close its roadways due to falling trees.

PennDOT urged drivers to “slow down and drive safe” while it put reduced speed limits on highways across the state.

While Hernandez said he was able to merge in the right lane and get home safely, that wasn’t the story for those traveling west as he watched the traffic pile up.

“It’s definitely one hell of a way to start the weekend,” Hernandez said.

Staff writer Joseph A. Gambardello contributed reporting.