Downed tree takes toll on couple

ELMORE – “It sounded like two big semi trailers smashed together. Scared me half to death.”

That is how Duane Vanderford describes a huge cottonwood tree toppling onto his house during the high wind storm June 16.

On Tuesday, Vanderford stood in his yard and watched workers from Gourley Tree Service clean up the remnants, as an inspector measured the house to assess the damage.

Vanderford said he and his wife, Fern, bought their home in 1981 and he planted the tree in the front yard in 1982 or 1983.

When the storm hit last week, the electricity went out, then came back on. Because the tree was propped against the house, it was deemed a hazard and the electricity was turned off.

“Still out of electricity,” Vanderford said. “Eighth day after the storm.”

Damage to the roof is obvious around the edges, with chunks missing. The tree pushed in the wall under the roof peak on the front of the house. The porch roof is all but gone. Pieces hang from the eaves.

The “terrible west wind” drove the rain into the house, Vanderford believes. The rain leaked into an upstairs room, through the floor and into the dining room, he said.

It was a big tree and a big job to remove.

“When it landed on the roof here (in front), it was hanging over here (the back of the house),” said Randy Olson of Gourley Tree Service.

It’s not easy to remove a tree that size and took two full days, he said.

They started at the top, trimming branches down to a manageable size.

Once the smaller branches were managed, workers began on the larger parts.

“We take sections off we can reach, take 18 inches to 2 feet lengths, because we don’t want to damage the roof – any more than it already is,” Olson said.

Then they brought in a payloader.

“Tried to lift the tree, but it tipped the payloader,” Olson said. “We had to lift it just enough to slide it off [the roof].”

Business owner Rusty Gourley estimated the tree took about 14 hours of labor to remove.

His crew may be finishing up the Vanderford tree, but there’s no rest in sight. He said he has “quite a few” other trees to take care of, just in Elmore.

“This was the worst one in town,” Gourley said.