Crashing tree has man quaking

GRETEL DAUGHERTY/The Daily Sentinel—Carl Hughes said conditions outside seemed calm Saturday night when part of a cottonwood tree toppled onto his home on Mockingbird Drive on the Redlands, shown Sunday. Hughes said he planned to have a firewood sale soon.

Carl Hughes was working on a computer at his Redlands home late Saturday when he thought the world suddenly had come to an end.

“I initially thought the neighbor’s house exploded ... all the noise was coming from above, not below,” Hughes said Sunday afternoon, assessing damage at his home in the 500 block of Mockingbird Lane. Roughly one third of a towering, hundred-plus-year-old cottonwood tree in the rear of the Hughes property collapsed with little to no warning around 11 the night before, producing what Hughes described as something of an earthquake feeling.

“It smashed our swamp cooler, so I think that acted like a speaker with the sound. The walls shook,” he said.

Hughes’ wife, Debra, was asleep on the couple’s bed when the section of tree slammed the house, causing branches to pierce the roof in at least three spots. The impact shoved the home’s front wall several inches from the ceiling — the entire structure appeared to be bowing out Sunday.

The full extent of damage wasn’t expected to be known until today.

Carl Hughes said he heard loud, branch-cracking sounds shortly before the collapse, but otherwise had no warning or indication there was a problem.

“There was no wind ... a completely calm, cloudless sky,” he said. “Just a few snaps and all of a sudden it sounds like someone is coming in through the roof at you.”

Firefighters who responded to the scene Saturday night estimated the tree was probably a century old, Hughes said. A specialist gave the large Cottonwood a clean bill of health when they bought the property six years ago, he said.

The couple’s insurer secured short-term housing arrangements, while the Hugheses’  dogs and household rabbits were divided among relatives for care.

“We’re still intact, we still have our things,” Hughes said, also still in good humour Sunday afternoon.

“If you have a wood-burning stove, we’re going to have a sale here pretty soon,” he said.


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