Saturday, September 08, 2012

And then there was that time a tree fell on our house...

How's everyone doing?  Nice weekend?  I was so excited for this weekend.  So excited.  After three weekends in a row traveling out of state with all three kids, this weekend looked like a delightfully empty rest.  All we had was a school picnic Saturday morning and a classmate birthday party (at a horse stable!!) Sunday afternoon.  Tra-la-la.  Rum-tum-tiddley-tum.

Saturday dawned with the 6:15 AM children and then there was some rushing about when I realized I had exactly none--not one!--ingredient for the "somewhat healthy dessert" I'd been asked to bring.  But eventually we went to the school "welcome back" lunch and had a fine time.

And then as we drove up the street toward our house around 1:30 we saw this.

Um, that's our driveway.  And our tree.  They aren't supposed to be quite so friendly.

At this point we both exhaled, seeing that the tree had utterly miraculously managed to fall in the only way it could and not wipe out the porch, the house in general, other trees, the telephone poles nearby, the street, or the church across the street.  Frankly, we were lucky.

And look at that break pattern and where the tree is laying and tell me some divine power didn't nudge it out of the way just a wee bit.  I won't believe you.

This is what the driveway looked like.  Again, pure luck, it didn't smash down onto the more delicate new trees and flowering bushes just in front of the garage but instead landed mostly in the mums and other small flowers.  It did crush the fig tree/bush and the last fig it was growing, but all-in-all?  Fine.  The biggest and most obvious problem (other than a tree across the driveway) was that it had yanked down the various lines running from the street-side telephone poles, diagonal across the driveway into the house.  And since the tree seemed to twist as it fell/landed, the wires were wrapped all through the canopy like spaghetti on a fork.

The neighbors were already out and had called 911, who promptly dispatched a fire station representative who drove up, did a quick scan from his driver's seat, and declared it was not a fire hazard before heading off to check the next call on his list.  A police officer drove up shortly, as well as a village representative from the department of public works (DPW).  In general, the village did an outstanding job.

Apparently there was a 75+ mph wind gust that came barreling across the village.  It downed a tree in the cemetery across the street, too, and a lot of other branches were down.  It seems our tree was rotten from the bottom up and inside out up to about ten feet high and the wind took the heavy top right down.  It crashed down just on the corner of the steps where the trunk cracked in half like a twig on your knee and then the canopy exploded upon hitting the driveway.  Branches that broke loose blew all the way down the block, with neighbors 5-6 houses down pulling them to the curbs.

The worst of it was the phone and cable cords.  For some reason there are four of them.  We don't even have a landline and only use the cable company for internet; so we had to really dig around to figure out who to call.  The village DPW sent over a Cat and picked up the biggest section of trunk blocking the steps which they then dropped in the yard (rather than the driveway) upon request.  But they couldn't touch the rest of the trunk and canopy until the cables were disentangled from it.  I spent two hours on hold with Verizon and Time Warner each (thankful for two cell phones so I had dueling hold music)--being shuttled from one incorrect department to the next and routed through voice-prompt madness--and in the mean time the power company showed up and marked the downed lines with brightly colored ribbons so no one would run into them when walking or biking, I suppose.  He said none of the cables on the ground were dangerous, but also we shouldn't mess with them and he wouldn't do anything with them himself.

So we waited.  Finally Verizon picked up and told me what seemed to amount to this:  since we aren't actually customers they'll get to it when they feel like it.  Time Warner was only slightly more helpful since we do use their internet service.  But once they found out we actually still had internet (it just snakes across our driveway), they lowered us to "sometime Sunday afternoon."

Around 3 a guy driving past stopped to ask if we needed help and pulled out his chainsaw.  What?  You don't just drive around with a chainsaw?  Hm.  Anyhow, he and Rob cut up the driveway mess and moved everything to the sides and the guy (neither of us actually got his name!) left his push broom and a big shovel so we could keep cleaning up.  Then he drove off to see if he could help someone else and said he'd stop by to get his tools later.  We told him to leave his contact information then, too, so we could thank him (and because he does house painting and we told him to give us a quote).

So by 4 he had driven off and church started across the street.  Probably 150 cars drove in and then out of that parking lot in the next 75 minutes and although almost all stopped to goggle, not one offered a hand or even asked if everyone was ok.  Hm.

We did get to talk to our neighbors a lot more and I was pleased to realize how much we've settled into our neighborhood.

So other than a lot of work this afternoon, and obviously one less giant old tree in the front yard, the only damage was the front porch.  We had a bite knocked out of the top part of the front steps.  Amazingly, even though the tree hit the little plastic urn flower pots and scuttled them off across the driveway and dumped them out and scattered their flowers, they don't have so much as a chip. We'll have to have the structure of the masonry checked for any cracks, but it looks like just that bite.

The only other visible damage was the bottom step which is cracked down the middle and broken from the concrete.

So so so lucky.

 The kids helped gather sticks occasionally and generally helped take care of August, but Rob did the majority of the work and I did the majority of the helping.  By dinnertime the driveway was clear except for the cable and phone lines.  A pile of logs is off to either side, the huge trunk is still in the front yard, and the stump is still standing, too.  The roadside brush pile is over six feet tall.


  1. I am so glad there was no significant damage.

    I am very curious, seeing the houses to the left of your house...does your house have a historical designation?

    GenE Shockley
    g.s.h. at

  2. Nope. It's an old house (1890's) but not officially designated as a historical house or anything. Which is good, because it means we can get it repainted or fix the roof without a million forms and a committee approval! But we personally value it as a historical (and beautiful) home so we've opted to maintain the slate roof and repaint the wood rather than covering it with vinyl as so many similar homes have done or doing any other more modern overhauls.

  3. Good glory. That is amazing. I agree, so, so, so lucky. I'm still in love with your home. Have I told you I have old house envy? And tree envy and...well, I just like where you live. And I'm glad the tree did too.