Wednesday, July 20th of this year was another uneventful summer day. At the end of the day, as is my habit, I checked the weather on my iPhone before going to bed. We were in a severe thunderstorm watch, but the radar showed nothing in our immediate vicinity.
At about 1 am that night we were awakened by the storm. Through the strobe-like flashes of lightning we could see trees waving wildly in the wind. We went back to sleep thinking we may have branches and leaves to clean up in the morning. What we did not know was the storm hitting us was massive and had formed a bow echo on radar, which is an indicator for damaging straight-line winds.
The next morning I took a look around the south (lake-facing) side of the house to see if we’d lost any trees. Other than an accumulation of branches and leaves on and around the patio, there did not appear to be much damage. I finished my coffee, showered and got ready to go to work. (I am working again this summer as an Aquatic Invasive Species inspector.)
When I went out to start loading my truck I went around the northeast corner of the house and could not believe my eyes. A gigantic clump of basswood trees had been blown over, clipping a corner of our new garage and landing on both our vehicles.
I went back inside to let Mel know I would not be going to work that day.
After recovering from the initial shock, I started making calls to insurance companies. Although our brand new house was damaged, we were not upset. Insurance would cover the repairs, which we would have our current contractor (who is still on the hook for a few other punch list items) complete.
We called on friend and neighbor Mike H. for help with getting the tree off our vehicles. He and wife Gail spent most of the day with us cutting and hauling away branches. Mike is a retired tree-trimmer, so his expertise was invaluable. Our daughter Emily’s fiancee Joe J. also was a big help, coming up with a plan to jack the huge tree trunks up so we could back the vehicles out.
We were quite surprised to find that the damage to our vehicles was not as bad as it first appeared. The pickup (with minimal insurance coverage) got a few more dents and scratches, which blended in with all the other dents and scratches. Although the Outback did not look bad, the body shop estimate still came at over $6000!
But that’s why we carry insurance – no big deal.
The storm’s real damage was down the hill at our cabin. There we lost nearly all the mature balsam fir trees that provided us shade in the summer and a windbreak in the winter. We also lost a number of other trees between us and the neighbors and even more in the woods behind the cabin. Straight-line winds normally break the tops off trees, which is bad enough. But we had recently had over 12″ of rain, softening the ground so the trees went over, roots and all.
Our cabin is currently empty, now that we are in our new home. We hope to use it as a guest house or possibly as a vacation rental property. We were fortunate that none of the trees came down on the cabin and the damage to our personal property was minor. This stuff is easily replaced.
What can not be replaced are the beautiful mature trees that framed the property and provided its unique character. The cabin no longer peaks out from under the fir boughs – it sits naked in plain sight now. These trees were planted and nurtured by the original owners of the property starting back in the 1950s. They had sheltered innumerable family gatherings, graced the property with their fragrant boughs, and took the bite out of the prevailing northwesterly winds that scream across the frozen lake in winter.
We will replant, of course, and try to reestablish some shade with fast-growing aspen and poplar. But we will not see the likes of these beautiful trees on the property again, at least not in our lifetimes.