AN ACT OF GOD: They say that trees fall down every time. But not on a hot Monday when there's no wind nor rain. But that's what happened in Arcadia where I live when a 40-foot acacia tree split in half and fell onto the house. There are no victims, except for our Toyota Corolla. Photo: Rhony Laigo/BNS

By Rhony Laigo

Balita Media News Service

A TREE falling down is not an unnatural occurrence when there’s rain and strong winds. Here in Southern California, the Santa Ana Winds bring gusts that sometimes reach in excess of 28 mph.

But a tree falling down on a hot Summer day is uncommon, don’t you think? Last Monday, however, was one of those unexpected moments when half of a 40-foot high acacia tree in front of our house in Arcadia split from the main trunk and slammed against the house and crushed my wife’s car – a 2009 Toyota Corolla.

Wow! Yeah, I know. Normally, it happens to somebody else’s house and I’m there to report on the incident. But not in the middle of August.

By looking at the picture above, I’m pretty sure your immediate reaction would be, “Did anyone get hurt?” The incident happened at around 6:45 p.m., just when I was having a meeting in Los Angeles. My wife – who just arrived a few minutes earlier – and two daughters were at the house, with my eldest daughter on the bed in her room that bore the brunt of the fallen tree.

“I thought there was an earthquake,” my daughter said “because the house shook,” while talking to me on the phone and who asked me to rush back home “aaah…because this is an emergency.” My other more curious daughter’s reaction was more quizzical, when she saw the leaves and branches by the window. She told me later, “Who the hell would leave bushes in front the house without picking them up?” She said she thought the gardener came to tend the lawn, but were “stupid” enough not to pick up their “leftovers.”

My wife was in our room, which was farthest from where it all happened and was watching TV. She didn’t know that the tree had fallen until our daughters told her. From the street, you can barely notice that the tree had split and only when the cops, fire engine and its crew and people from Southern California Edison made the place a disaster scene.

Oh, I forgot to mention. The other half of the tree was still standing, but it grew up on an 80° angle towards the street. Needless to say it had to be cut down. The police thought that since the remainder of the tree will soon fall down – fungus was seen growing on the foot of the trunk, a sign that it was dying (I didn’t know that)  – it would be best to take it down before somebody gets hurt. So, I had to call the property manager to enlist a night crew to take care of part that fell onto the house.

Traffic was diverted as telephone lines were also brought down by the tree, some of it were on the street. A few people stopped and became spectators as firefighters probed and evaluated the situation, my eldest daughter informed me. When I arrived, everything was already peace and quiet. The familiar scene that I was accustomed to was gone…the house was covered by leaves and branches. It was dark. I thought we had no power. And the car…gosh, I have forgotten about the car…it suffered a hole on the windshield and the roof was damaged caused by a branch that was leaning against it.

The piece that pierced through the windshield, by the driver’s side, was like a picture you usually see in the movies. It was horrific that if a driver was there – which could’ve been my wife – it would’ve been a tragic event…gory to say the least. I could only imagine how everything unfolded while taking pictures amid some people who kept walking and jogging on the sidewalk oblivious to the scene in front of the house, which was some 15 feet away from the curb. They barely noticed it.

Later into the night, the night crew had arrived, so was the property manager. I had to inform the neighbor that the chaos will have to come back…there was a truck, electric saws, lights, and that people barking at one another will resume. The “slaughter” ended past 1 a.m.

The following morning, another truck with a boom and a lot of crews in orange t-shirts – city employees – came supposedly to bring down the other half of the tree. “It’s our tree. I’m pretty sure it’s our tree,” one of them told me. But after measuring the sidewalk, he determined that it was a “property-owned tree.” They left after just cutting some branches off the tree that was still standing “to ease some pressure and because part of it was already leaning against an electric wire.” So, the burden fell back onto the property manager, which dutifully did so and another set of crews came.

Oh, before I totally forget, the car suffered more damage because the branch that punctured the windshield had settled further down and eventually dented the hood. But that’s not the worse part. Unfortunately, the homeowner’s insurance and because the lease contract that my wife and I signed (they were in fine print…and six pages) “absolved” the owner of any liability as far as personal property is concerned. What if it caused injuries, I thought…worse, death?

Good thing our Corolla was fully covered, by my own insurance. Sadly, I still have to shell out a couple of thousand dollars for deductible and for car rental. Yeah, I could only manage to insure the car at a bare minimum. Hey, in this economy, who could afford a zero deductible and complete coverage? Tough luck? Nah. What’s more important is that no one got hurt. And we’re talking about my family. ■