Before most of the country went into deep freeze, before Texas dominated the headlines with broken pipes and a broken power grid, Oregon was already under a coat of ice. But before even that, in the wee hours of a windy January night, our tale begins.
The winter breeze whooshed through the trees and power lines, generating that shrill undulating whistle that always puts my wife on edge. Especially when it makes the 75 foot tall hemlock in the backyard wave back and forth, giving Ent like greetings to all the other trees in the neighborhood. We always hold our breath a bit, when windstorms come along. As if that little bit of our breath, which would barely perturb a butterfly, could add to the chaos.
So, when that sudden crash and house shaking thump arrived unexpectedly, just before the stroke of midnight, the first thought was “what the heck was that?”, followed by, “uh oh.”
Off to the kitchen window we went, to check the space where that forest monolith lives. And sure enough, there was an ominous empty space sucking up the sky where a massive tree used to hang out in all its limbinescent glory. Oh, shit.
Time to break out the flashlight. What, or who did that giant woody beast land on? We live in an old, densely housed neighborhood…
But before I get into that, I should talk about the other winter storm – the one that’s behind the pictures that likely click baited you into this post.
Weather tends to run west to east, at least in the Northern Hemisphere. For those of us in the Pacific Northwest, that means we often get whacked several days before the rest of the country. And so it was, a few days before Valentines and the rest of the country’s deep freeze when the weather opted to gift us with snow, then ice, then more snow, then more ice.
And we got off easy.
We didn’t lose power. But I have friends who live only a few miles south that when we got snow, they simply got more ice. They were out of power for a week.
Other parts of Oregon got hit harder still. At one point 300,000 were without power, and even two weeks later a good 25,000 were wondering when the lights would go on. I’m not sure the country heard about all this, what with being drowned out by all the gnashing of teeth in Texas.
Even the hummers were wondering what was going on.
It made for crunchy, treacherous walking, what with ice on top of snow.
Ain’t winter fun?
Oh yeah, back to that other “fun.” When we left off, we were checking out, in a world of 50×100 lots, what a 75 foot tree landed on. It should come as no surprise that despite the hour, a couple other neighbors were wondering too.
One might argue, considering an 80-year-old healthy looking tree decided to call it a life, along with all the subsequent mess, hassle and expense, that I haven’t been living right; that karma has caught up to my lifetime of sins. But I’d argue I got damn lucky.
Despite the prevailing winds coming from the south that night, the tree opted to fall almost due east, right down the property line between my house and the next door neighbors. And even then, rather than having branches take out windows on both sides, the hemlock landed atop a pair of cherry trees, also of substantial size and maturity. They were big enough to break the fall and keep the top of the hemlock off the neighbor’s house. The branches caused only minor damage to the two houses, and the tree trunk took out a section of fence. A 10 degree change of direction, either side, would have been doom and gloom for either my house or the neighbors, and possibly one of the neighbor’s kids.
I prefer to think I’ve been living right.
It took a 140 ton crane and a full arbor crew about a day to safely cut back the hemlock and lower it to the ground. We managed a rare clear winter day for that primary job, and to squeeze in a followup job to take down the badly damaged cherry trees and cut everything up just before all the snow and ice hit. And despite the enormous amount of wood generated by three mature trees, I’ve found takers for nearly all of it amongst my neighbors.
Even the insurance company was cooperative.
It turned out the hemlock had root rot. It snapped off clean at the base.
Perhaps karma, or whatever you wish to call it, is suggesting that maybe I should write stories again. Lately it’s taken natural disasters; if you recall, my last post was about the hazardous air from all the forest fires last fall. I’m tired of natural disasters. It’s almost like COVID is just background noise.
Of course, it’s background noise like you’d get from an unruly neighbor kid with an out of tune garage band and overpowered amplifiers. It’s definitely crimped my style and kept me from generating new content, or at least being motivated to do so. Hopefully, that will change, at least somewhat, in the months ahead, and I can get back to writing lighter fare.
So, how was your winter?