Storm Warning

Blessings of a blowdown

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

When a limb from a century-old tree hits a house, it feels like it’s been rammed by a Humvee.

I know this because during a gnarly windstorm in mid-October, the stately maple that has been gracing the second lot of my front yard since long before I moved to Bellingham’s York neighborhood in the winter of 2000 succumbed to the elements.

I was vacuuming the basement when the tree attacked the roof, but I still heard the reverberating boom. As I rushed upstairs, I took note of a jagged branch hanging from the side of the house and the furnace chimney lying in pieces on the ground.

I opened the front door just in time to see more limbs breaking free from the trunk. In the blink of an eye, the yard was full of leaves and long lengths of wood—as was part of my next-door neighbor’s yard, the sidewalk and the street. Phone lines were compromised, the garden gate was obliterated, and an ornamental cherry tree and lilac bush were buried beneath the debris.

The destruction was breathtaking, but in the hours and days following the Big Blowdown of 2017 I’d come to see that things could’ve been much, much worse. In fact, I’d eventually feel thankful.

Above all, I was thankful that no humans were injured, and that my 117-year-old Victorian wasn’t obliterated (although it’s going to need some roofing work, among other things). I was also grateful that no vehicles were damaged, our chickens were safe, and we didn’t lose power.

Among the numerous blessings I’m counting as Thanksgiving nears is that the accident brought me closer to the community—from the neighbors who called the authorities to report the damage, to those who stopped by to tell me stories about how the iconic tree impacted their lives, to the woodworker who requested a chunk of the maple to craft a bowl for us.

When Public Works came to clear the woody debris from the street and sidewalk, two of the “knuckles” they carted away weighed in at 9,000 pounds. They were likely so heavy because they were waterlogged; the tree that had survived the Depression had grown in such a way that the crotch of the maple held rainwater, rotting the trunk from the inside out.

If you have a seemingly healthy tree near your house, keep an eye on it. If a limb breaks, check it for brown or black colors in the center, indicating rot. Have a certified arborist give it a once-over, and make sure it’s pruned correctly. Check for mushrooms on the trunk or at the base of the tree, as they can also indicate decay.

The contractor who’ll be helping restore the parts of the domicile that were damaged told me that he’s seen a house ripped in half by a fir tree falling on it. I’m thankful every day that I escaped this fate, and I want you to avoid it, too.

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Home for the Holidays

5:00pm|Ferndale Events Center

The 39 Steps

7:00pm|Sehome High School Little Theatre

Little Women

7:00pm|Ferndale High School

Peter and the Star Catcher

7:00pm|Squalicum High School

Romeo, You Idiot!

7:30pm|Heiner Theater


7:30pm|Mount Baker High School

Craft Bazaar

9:00am|American Legion Post #43

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am|Meridian Street

Hot Cider & Cool Art

10:00am|Morgan Block Studios

Used Book Sale

10:00am|Everson Library

Red Barn Handpicked Holiday Market

12:00pm|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

Holiday Gifts from the Kitchen

3:00pm|Lynden Library, Ferndale Library

It's Where the Sidewalk Ends

6:00pm|Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth

New Music, New Dance

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center Concert Hall

The Big Short One-Act Festival

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Bellingham Repertory Dance's Emerge

7:30pm|Firehouse Performing Arts Center

Backyard Brawl

8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

VFW Breakfast

8:00am|VFW Hall

Pancake Breakfast

8:00am|Ferndale Senior Center

Pancake Feed

8:00am|VFW Post 1585

Holiday Bazaar

9:00am|Hillcrest Chapel

Christmas in the Woods

9:00am|Garden Spot Nursery

NSEA Work Party

9:00am|Acme Elementary School

Turkey Trot

9:00am|Squalicum Creek Park

Climate Reality

10:00am|Bellingham Public Library

South Fork Winterfest

10:00am|Van Zandt Community Hall

Fall Gardening

10:00am|Lynden Library

Cheese Fest

10:00am|Everybody's Store

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Rexville Grange Holiday Art Show

10:00am|Rexville Grange

Holiday Farmers Market

10:00am|Port of Anacortes Transit Shed Event Center

Lynden Book Club

10:30am|Everson Library

Salmon Sighting

12:00pm|Haynie Creek

Conquering Writer's Block

2:00pm|South Whatcom Library

Fishboy Holiday Show

2:00pm|FishBoy Gallery

NaNoWriMo and Indie Publishing

3:00pm|Everson Library

Skagit Wine & Beer Festival


Homeless Summit and Cold Weather Giveaway

3:00pm|Maritime Heritage Park

i.e. artists talk

3:30pm|i.e. gallery

Small Works Opening

4:00pm|Matzke Fine Art Gallery and Sculpture Park

Smith & Vallee Artist Talk

4:00pm| Smith & Vallee Gallery

WA 129 Poetry Reading

6:00pm|Maple Hall

Giving from the Heart

7:00pm|Depot Art Center

A Light in the Darkness

7:00pm|Church of the Assumption

Welcome Home Celebration

7:00pm|Village Books

Ruach Consort

7:00pm|St. Paul's Episcopal Church

Contra Dance

7:00pm|Eagles Hall

Michael Kaeshammer

7:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Legends of the Blues V

7:30pm|Byrnes Performing Arts Center

Bellingham Farmer’s Market
Peter and the Star Catcher

7:00pm|Squalicum High School


7:30pm|Mount Baker High School

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am|Meridian Street

Bellingham Repertory Dance's Emerge

7:30pm|Firehouse Performing Arts Center

Rexville Grange Holiday Art Show

10:00am|Rexville Grange

Cheese Fest

10:00am|Everybody's Store

Holiday Farmers Market

10:00am|Port of Anacortes Transit Shed Event Center

Rabbit Ride

8:00am|Fairhaven Bicycle

Community Breakfast

8:00am|American Legion Post #43

Rabbit Ride

8:30am|Fairhaven Bicycle

Getting in on the act


Sound of Music Singalong

1:00pm|Lincoln Theatre

A Musical Thanksgiving

2:00pm|McIntyre Hall

Harmony from Discord with Whatcom Symphony Orchestra

3:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

The 25th Hour

4:00pm|Village Books

Southside Community Meal

5:00pm|Our Saviour's Lutheran Church

Way North Comedy Showcase

7:00pm|Farmstrong Brewing Co.

Rutie Dornfeld, John Miller

7:00pm|YWCA Ballroom

Kaeshammer Village Books
Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am|Meridian Street

Wander + Camber Beer Dinner

6:30pm|Camber Cafe

Rocks & Gems

7:00pm|Bloedel Donovan Community Building


9:30pm|Green Frog

see our complete calendar »

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