Thanksgiving hurricane

In September we had a crazy wind storm that took out three trees in our yard, including one that swiped the side of the house. Everyone told us this was unprecedented, including people who had lived in the area for thirty years or more.

Well, they say lightning strikes twice, but in this case it was the wind. The day before Thanksgiving we had a second wind storm that was just as fierce as the one two months earlier, except it lasted a full day. Winds gusted above 60 mph. We watched as trees in our yard swayed back and forth, tugging at the ground (you could actually see the ground heaving as the trees’ roots pulled at it). We were absolutely convinced that at least two of the trees were going to smash into the house, doing far more damage than the September storm because they were taller and closer to the house.

As it turned out, the enormous tree in our front yard tore loose and toppled. Pepper, Kyra, and I watched it fall (Pepper even caught it on video). It crashed through two trees downwind, clipping the top halves off both of them. The entire mess came crashing down into the driveway, and left a mammoth hole in the yard. Another tree fell across the next switchback in the driveway.

Here’s the tree laying across the yard. Note the huge boulder in the bottom right: that had been up at the roots of the tree (part of the landscaping along our sidewalk) and tumbled down the hill.

The wind howled all day and night. We hoped against hope that the two trees beside the house would hold. They did. When the wind finally abated on Thanksgiving, we surveyed the damage.

A tall pine beside the driveway collapsed. It didn’t damage anything, but it’s sad to lose such a pretty tree.

In our backyard, another tree had fallen (luckily not hitting anything at all). In the national forest behind us, we could see roughly a dozen trees down. Perhaps most precarious of all was the ponderosa pine leaning over our garage and the courtyard:

It’s at least a hundred feet tall. And yes, it’s really 30 degrees off vertical. If it collapsed, it would crush the garage and ruin the courtyard fence and much of the landscaping there. Luckily for us, the tree’s roots were holding and it was leaning slightly against an outcropping of rocks at the end of our driveway. When an arborist came to survey the damage, he told us confidently that the tree will hold for a little while. Taking it down will be a trick, but he should be able to do it with a bucket truck, sawing off the upper portion. That’ll be something to see.

There are five other trees in our yard that are “compromised” (in his words) and endangering the house. If we don’t remove them, the next wind storm will certainly take them down and crunch the house. All told, there’s around six thousand dollars of cutting and dismantling to be done. Atop that, there’s probably four thousand dollars of cleanup as we remove the massive root balls and fill the gaping holes with topsoil. Ouch.

Needless to say, it was a stressful day, but in the end the house wasn’t hit. I have friends who experienced much worse, with dozens of trees down and damage to their houses. The place across the street has a hundred-and-fifty-foot tree laying across its roof, and three others down in the backyard. Power lines up and down the highway were taken out by falling limbs. It looks like a hurricane ripped through the east side of the valley.

So, as I considered what I was thankful for this week, the fact that we escaped relatively unscathed was on top of my list. Yeah, it’s a mess, but it could be worse. Now we’ve bought a chainsaw, and over the next days and weeks we’re going to attack the fallen trees and clear them. On the bright side, we should have enough firewood to last a long, long time.