Thursday, November 8, 2012
The sound was like a roaring train coming through. The entire house shook. It was 1 a.m. Dozing in our bedroom upstairs, I was jarred awake. “What was that?!!” I yelled to Michael who was downstairs in the family room. I rushed out of the bedroom and down the stairs. He said he knew immediately what it was. A tree had fallen on our house!
A snowy nor’easter had begun the previous afternoon. Not exactly welcome considering that so many people were still suffering from the effects of Sandy. We turned on the front outside lights, opened the front door, and peered out. It was still snowing with several inches already on the ground. At the far end of the garage where a light had been knocked out, wires were dangling. We could barely make out what appeared to be a whole lot of snow-covered branches atop the snow-covered driveway.
We called the township police. A few minutes later, a patrol car arrived with two officers. Flashlights in hand, they mushed up the driveway, went toward the back of the house, returned, and confirmed that a tree had fallen onto and over the garage. They said if we were worried about staying in the house, they would take us to the shelter in the municipal center which had remained open because there were still houses without power after Sandy. Whatever the extent of the damage from the tree might be, the interior of the house was fine. Plus, we were lucky that the electric, gas, and telephone lines were on the opposite side of the house. Though we were a bit shaken up, we decided to stay at home.
Sleep was out of the question. We sat in the family room discussing what we would need to do to address the situation. Around 3 a.m., it suddenly occurred to me that our insurance company probably had 24/7 service. We called thinking that we’d get a recording and would leave a message. But – wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles – the phone was actually answered by a live person! She took the information, opened a case file, gave us the number, and said an adjuster would contact us sometime after 7 a.m.
Before daybreak, the snow had stopped. Once it was light out, we were able to see for ourselves what had happened. The tree that had come down was one of the two maples we had planted on either side of the backyard a few months after we had moved in. So, it was more than 40 years old and BIG! (You can see the tree when it was still standing — well, just trunk — in this photo I took when we came back to the house after Sandy.)
The top branches, heavy with water-logged snow, had literally pulled the tree’s roots out of the ground. The tree had toppled over the garage roof, the trunk resting a bit off the ground while a thick branch straddled the peak of the garage roof. The top branches damaged the overhang taking out the light and ended up covering most of the driveway. Other branches did damage to the roof at the top of the house. And the trunk crushed the fence.
(The entire set of the fallen tree photos can be seen on my Flickr here.)
The insurance adjuster called and showed up shortly thereafter. After a preliminary inspection, he immediately issued a first check that would cover attending to the electrical wire, removing the tree, and having the roof tarped.
We had already put in a call to Aspen, our regular tree service, left a message, and were waiting for a call back.
We had recently finished one bathroom renovation and were scheduled to begin a second in December. So, we called Tim, the electrician on those jobs, told him what had happened and about the broken light and hanging wire. He came promptly and took care of it. When we mentioned that we needed someone to tarp the roof and do whatever repairs would be necessary but had no idea who to call (the bathroom reno people only did kitchens and baths), Tim recommended Ginfreda Home Improvements, Inc., a general contractor he often worked with that could do whatever needed to be done. This was a big stroke of luck for us. We called and spoke with John, the owner, who said that as soon as the tree was removed, he and his men would tarp the roof. He would also check to see the extent of the damage and give us an estimate of repair costs.
There was another challenge. Both our cars were inside the garage, undamaged, but trapped there until the tree would be removed. But getting a rental car proved extremely difficult because so many cars were damaged by Sandy that those owners were renting. After calls to rental agencies in our area got us nowhere, we were thinking of taking the train into the city and renting a car from an agency there. However, I decided to make one last local attempt and called Avis in Matawan again. We got lucky again! A car had just come back, and the woman I spoke with said she’d pick us up.
This is the rental car we drove for the next few days, a brand new Taurus.
Friday, November 9th
Gabe from Aspen came to house. To say they’d been busy since Sandy was a severe understatement. He said as soon as a crane was available, they’d remove the tree. He figured that would probably be on Monday….