High winds push trees onto local house

By Steve Guntli


Blaine residents Donna and Charley Robbins got a little more familiar with mother nature than they would have liked after a cluster of trees crashed into their home last week.

At 12:30 a.m. on October 22, a cluster of five large cottonwood trees tipped over in a strong wind, crashing against the Robbins’ Harborview Drive home.Trees_SG-4

Donna Robbins said she and her husband had been having trouble sleeping, due to the howling winds blowing at more than 60 miles per hour. They had nearly fallen asleep when they first heard a crash.

“We heard a loud boom, and it was coming from the neighbor’s yard,” she said. “A tree had come down in their backyard and knocked over their hot tub. That’s when we knew we had to get out of the way.”

Anticipating the tree-fall, the Robbins’ ran from their bedroom moments before a large tree crashed through their roof. In the shock of the impact, Charley was flung against a dresser, and suffered a blow to the head, a wound to his knee and a dislocated rib. He was treated at PeaceHealth St. Joseph hospital in Bellingham.

One tree punched a hole into the Robbins’ roof just above the master bedroom. Donna believes the roof will need to be completely replaced; the estimate to repair the house is $80,000. The impact also shattered a glass door on the ground floor of the house and made cracks in walls in the living room.

“Honestly, I’m not sure it’s completely safe for us to be in here,” Donna said.

A neighbor quickly offered to help manage the insurance companies and hired John Otis Tree Service to remove the trees the next day. The six-man crew worked late into the night with a large crane to remove the trees, which were estimated to weigh over 50,000 lbs., Donna said. The crew completed the work late on October 23; the Robbins’ insurance doesn’t cover the removal of the logs.

“It’s going to be difficult getting in and out of the house for a while,” Donna said.

The soil in which the cottonwood trees grew had grown heavily waterlogged by the torrential rains of the past few weeks. The 100-foot-tall trees were growing on an adjacent property, which is part of a watershed.

“There’s another tree back there, right outside our computer room, that could go at any minute, but since it’s protected under watershed laws it can’t be removed,” Donna said.

While the shock of the initial impact has passed, Donna has some concerns for her and her husband’s health. Charley was born with an immune deficiency, and Donna is concerned that the draft and rain coming in through the cracks in their roof could lead to health problems. Donna was scheduled for a hip replacement surgery soon, but she may have to postpone it until she knows what kinds of obstacles the construction and cleanup will create.

The Robbins are retired and have lived in their home for nine years.

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