ANTHEM -- Monday night's wicked winter storm tore the top right off of Anthem's massive Christmas tree. The damage to Arizona's largest Christmas tree -- an 80-foot white fir -- is so bad that it likely cannot be saved.
The 45-year-old tree traveled 750 miles on a flatbed semi to the Outlets at Anthem and was put into place by a huge crane a couple of days before Halloween. It was then decorated with thousands of lights and ornaments in time for the official tree lighting ceremony on Nov. 21.
A little more than two weeks after that celebration, the top of the tree -- a huge chunk several feet tall -- now lays at its base. Monday night's storm, which was unusual for December, brought extremely heavy winds throughout the Valley.
Arborist Mike Espinoza, who was called out to survey the damage, said that kind of break the tree sustained is usually indicative of a quick, hard wind. Gusts in the area of the Anthem Outlets were estimated at about 70mph.
"Unfortunately, it looks like we're not going to be able to save Christmas today," Espinoza said. "It looks like we're going to potentially have to remove this tree. In a better situation, we might have been able to save it, but it looks like it was toppled off at the top. Being that it's a little too top heavy, we weren't able to do anything to save it."
It's not clear if Anthem Outlets will try to replace the tree.
"I saw the tree and I just really wanted to cry," said Sally Anne Martinez, marketing director for the outlets. "It's been a beacon of what the holiday season is to Arizona. ... We'll just have to take it step by step and see where we go from here."