ANN BAILEY: High winds, old trees are dangerous mix

During the summer we typically lose some of our farmstead trees during windstorms. The combination of heavy rains and winds topple the trees like they are toothpicks and the sound of crashing trees is fairly frequent during summer storms.

Ann Bailey

During the summer we typically lose some of our farmstead trees during windstorms. The combination of heavy rains and winds topple the trees like they are toothpicks and the sound of crashing trees is fairly frequent during summer storms.

Fortunately, most of the trees that fall are in the woods and we just leave them to rot or to let friends cut them up for firewood. Occasionally, the trees fall in the yard or across the road so my husband, Brian, has to pull them into the woods with the tractor. If the trees are too large for the John Deere 3010 to handle, Brian uses the chainsaw to cut the limbs into smaller pieces and we throw those into the woods.


While getting rid of the trees that fall during summer storms adds another thing to our already busy schedule, it's not too dangerous. The winds that blew the trees down are usually short-lived and die down when the thunderstorm moves on.

It was a different story with the Oct. 7 winds that were blowing trees down across the area. I don't know what the wind speed at our house was, but nearby, winds of 60 mph were clocked.


I was relieved that Friday afternoon when I got close enough to our house to see that there were no trees down on the road that leads to our house. There are rows of cottonwood trees on the north side of the road and willows and evergreens on the south side of the road that leads into our farm yard. The rows of trees are several hundred feet in length and some of the cottonwoods and willows are a 100 years old, so the chances of having one fall during a windstorm are pretty good.

Strong gusts

When I went out to feed the horses a little while after I got home, the wind gusts seemed to be even higher, so I decided to give Freda, Isabelle and Zammie their hay inside. I thought if I fed them outside, as I usually do, the wind would blow the flakes of alfalfa into the next township.

After I finished feeding the horses, I started to pick up a few branches, but then noticed some pretty big ones were just missing me, so I decided to leave the removal project until the next day. I was going to head inside when I looked over toward the road and thought I could see something on it. Brian, who had just come home, said that, yes, a tree had fallen across the road. I told him it wasn't there when I went into the barn, so it must have fallen in the last few minutes.

We knew we should get the tree off of the road, but neither of us thought that working on tree removal in the midst of a grove of swaying and cracking trees would be safe. We decided to take a look at the situation and, if nothing else, put up signs on either side of the grove to warn people that they couldn't drive through the lane.


Brian got the tractor and drove out to the road, figuring he could park the tractor out of harm's way if we decided not to move the tree until late. When we arrived on the road, it seemed like the wind had died down a little, so he put the chain on the tree and tried to pull it. The willow budged a little, but part of it was still attached to its trunk and the tractor didn't have enough horsepower to move it off of the road.

While I watched the trees surrounding the fallen tree sway and the leaves and branches swirl in the air, Brian began to cut the tree with the chainsaw. About that time, Bill, one of our neighbors who was going to harvest corn in the field adjacent to our farmstead, came driving up to our farm with his semi. He helped Brian throw the branches into the ditch and told me to go ahead and take our son Brendan to meet the bus for his football game.


I thanked him and went to get Brendan who told me that the bad thing about the trees by our house was that he thought one was going to fall on it. I told him that if it did, we hoped that the attic would cushion the blow to the main floor. After I dropped Brendan off at the school, I went to pick up his brother, Thomas, from his football practice. While I was waiting for Thomas, I watched the power line at the school bounce in the wind and a couple of guys using a tractor to pull a big branch off of the street that runs beside the high school.


A little while later, sirens sounded and a fire truck headed north out of town to put out a fire that had started after a power line snapped in the wind. As I waited, I kept glancing in my rear view mirror to make sure that none of the trees behind my parking spot were ready to fall. I figured that I could make a quick exit from the car if I saw one start to go down.

By the time I got home, Brian and Bill had finished removing the tree and the road was clear except for some small branches and a lot of corn leaves that were blowing onto it from the field that was being harvested.

The wind died down that night and I felt fortunate when I checked the road the next day and saw that no more trees had fallen. I also am grateful that none of the old cottonwoods that are on three sides of our house went down. I'm afraid, that judging by their size, despite what I told Brendan, they may have done some serious damage to our house. Brian and I have longed talked about having some of the trees removed, or at least, topped off and I think our latest adventure will prompt us to do just that.

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