March is the windiest month of the year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Close behind are the months of April, February and January.
A couple of homes in my Webster Groves neighborhood have been the victim of trees uprooted by high winds in the past two months.
Just past midnight in the first hour of Sunday, Feb. 24, the wind picked up. Some gusts were reported as high as 60 miles per hour.
Katy Sommer was still awake. Her daughter and a sleep-over friend had just complained about the sound of the wind outside a bedroom window and decided to move to a room on the other side of the house. A few minutes later there was a resounding crash.
Sommer and the girls went outside with flashlights. A tall white pine tree, part of a row of pines to the west of the Sommer house, had uprooted and was lying on the 70-year-old house.
So I have often wondered what actions one takes when a tree falls on your house in the middle of a weekend night. I felt especially grateful on this west wind night that the hollow maple leaning toward my bedroom was removed a couple of years ago.
Sommer started by calling 911. The fire department arrived in minutes. They checked the house for the extent of structural damage and then allowed Sommer to retrieve personal items and insurance paperwork before Ameren arrived to shut off power and Spire to shut off gas service. Sommer and the girls headed to her parents’ home for the remainder of the night.
Before she went to sleep, Sommer phoned her insurance company’s emergency number and texted a neighbor.
Ironically, the neighbor behind Sommer had a similar experience a month earlier when a 160-year-old black oak crashed onto their house, causing substantial damage.
On Sunday morning, Sommer began calling tree services. Happy Tree responded with a crew that morning. Sommer called Rick Kuhn, a Kirkwood building contractor who had been a youth leader at her church years earlier.
Kuhn assessed the damage – a crushed truss, five or six more that were cracked and several holes in the roof. Plywood patches and a blue tarp were applied. A temporary support structure was added in the attic to minimize damage from the tree crew working on the roof.
Sommer said she “took a ton of photos inside and outside” for documentation. She also started a detailed journal of every person she had talked with and what was discussed.
“I asked every stupid question I could think of and they were very responsive,” she said of her conversation with an insurance company representative.
“The neighbors have been very supportive and I think that’s really cool,” said Sommer. “I feel really fortunate.”