Winds Knock Down National Christmas Tree

By Tim Persinko
|  Saturday, Feb 19, 2011  |  Updated 2:43 PM EDT
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The high winds that have been wreaking havoc around the D.C. region this weekend have toppled a national symbol.

The nation's Christmas Tree, a live evergreen which has stood on the Ellipse since 1978, was toppled by gusting winds on Saturday.

The 42-foot tall Colorado blue spruce has been lit through five different presidencies in its time on the Ellipse.  The tree was specially selected by National Park Service horticulturalists, who, searching the country for the healthiest tree with the right proportions, discovered this one in York, Pennsylvania.

Now the tree is laying on its side behind the White House.

Saturday's wind gusts, which reached 60 miles per hour at some points, have also fanned numerous fires around the region Saturday.  Fire officials said that high winds helped accelerated a fire that gutted a home in Prince Georges County on Saturday morning.  In Germantown, Md., a raging brush fire prompted residents to stand outside their homes to fight the approaching flame with hoses.

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