May 15th, 2008
Missed it by that Much

Zanthan Gardens storm damage

…as Maxwell Smart used to say. This medium-sized limb fell right next to my bedroom window and landed on the winter vegetable garden. Luckily nothing is growing there right now and the trunk missed my new pots. More importantly, it missed our new metal roof. (A tree fell on our old roof in 2001 and we had to replace it then.)

Zanthan Gardens storm damage

Shortly after 11:30 last night we were awakened by large hail. We took refuge in the hallway away from all the windows because hail was flying off our metal roof and bouncing against the windows. The trees were waving wildly in the wind and when we saw green light and sparks flying, we guessed one of the limbs had fallen on the power lines. The power went out. The storm was fast and furious and it wasn’t very long before we were outside with our flashlights.

The cedar elms next to the driveway had two large limbs whip around and fall against the power lines. Anticipating this, we had paid to have this tree trimmed back two years ago. Just a couple of months ago, in preparing to put in new taller electric poles, the city had trimmed all my trees away from the lines again. But the cedar elm limbs are pretty big. The city crew arrived at 3:30 to cut the limbs off the lines. The mailbox and some of the rails in the picket fence were damaged while the crew worked in the dark. But no biggie–they have a tough job restoring power every time one of these storms hits. This tree is almost split in half and I’ll have to have the rest of it taken out.

Zanthan Gardens storm damage

In the back, the top of another cedar elm sheared off. Half landed in the meadow and half landed and snapped the cherry laurel. Overall, the damage was minor. One tomato crushed. Two pepper plants. The cherry laurel was split in half, as was the chili pequin. But the roof and the cars and all the potted plants escaped damage.

Our neighbors were not so lucky. Next door, recent arrivals from Maine were dismayed to wake up a tree limb on top of their car. “We don’t have tornados in Maine.” It wasn’t a tornado, though. Just high winds. Storms like these are the reason that it was imperative we remove the unattached metal roof from the garden house.

Bouldin Creek storm damage

And on the corner, a huge old tree completely uprooted, taking the curb with it, and fell on the cute little cottage. The house is empty right now. The old woman who lived there died recently. I’m told her husband planted that tree when they first moved into that house in the 1940s. When the city put in the bus stop and wanted to build a sidewalk, she fought them to save the tree and won.

by M Sinclair Stevens

17 Responses to post “Missed it by that Much”

  1. From Carol, May Dreams Gardens:

    What a harrowing experience for you. Hail, limbs falling out of trees. You are quite fortunate, except for the storm part. Now, the garden changes again. More sun, time for new plans, new plants. Sounds like you’ll be hearing chain saws for awhile. I hope you don’t get any more storms like that!

    AJM encouraged me to go buy a chainsaw this morning. I’m so tired from yesterday that I’m not hard to convince. A new power tool! — mss

  2. From Dorothy, Gardening with Nature:

    That was quite a storm you had. I’m so sorry for the damage you and your neighbors suffered, but thank goodness it wasn’t any worse.

    Compared to the suffering in China or Burma, our problems are slight. — mss

  3. From Annie in Austin:

    Good grief, MSS! Our part of Austin had tornado sirens going off and there were little arrows pointing at our subdivision on the TV weathercaster’s screen… but nothing really happened here, and you got slammed. What a way to get more sun into the garden- not sure if even a homegrown tomato is worth that stress!

    And how funny the tree missed the pots – just like at Christopher’s place at Outside Clyde. I’m glad you and the roof are okay.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

    I can’t believe that limb missed those pots, either. — mss

  4. From Pam/Digging (Austin):

    We got pounded too, but the trees in our neighborhood are still standing. You are pretty philosophical about the damage and upcoming expense of tree removal. Are you rubbing your hands together with delight thinking of more roses you can plant?

    Glad to hear you pulled through. (Last Saturday when you got hail, we had none.) Apparently the wind damage was worst from the UT campus, funneling through downtown, and into our hood. I can usually be quite stoic about things that can’t be helped. What drives me crazy is waste that could be prevented, with a little planning and thoughtfulness. We’ll see how much more light I really have. The tree is the one next to the driveway, so it will mostly be the driveway getting more light. — mss

  5. From vertie:

    So glad that you and AJM, as well as your house and most of your plants are safe. The story about the neighbor’s tree brought trees to my house. Mainly the tree knew it was time to go, as the neighbor had died.

    Now that you’ve seen the damage in life, I wondered if it looked worse or not as bad as in the photos. — mss

  6. From Rachel from Austin:

    Oh my goodness, all that damage is shocking. Somehow, though I don’t live all that far from Annie, our neighborhood was quiet. No sirens, no hail that I’m aware of, and no damage. Just some rain, which is what I needed.

    I’m glad that the important things are still standing.

    Glad to hear the storm didn’t hit everyone. The first thing I did when the power came up was check everyone’s Twitter and blogs to see how fellow Austinites faired. — mss

  7. From our friend Ben in Pennsylvania:

    Gack! I’m so sorry, MSS! Our little cottage is set down under *many* tall trees, as is the parking square, and we have very high winds here also, which means that our almost-daily yard chore is playing pickup sticks. Fortunately, so far, the house and cars have been spared. But many’s the night I’ve lain awake, just listening to the roaring wind and wondering. As for Maxwell Smart, I understand a new movie version of “Get Smart” is in the works. I hope they don’t butcher it the way they did with poor Clouseau and the Pink Panther!

    Living under big trees is both wonderful and frightening. I don’t have high expectations for the new “Get Smart” movie. No one can replace Don Addams. — mss

  8. From Lori, Austin TX:

    Wow! It’s crazy how different the weather was last night in different parts of Austin. Vicki got a tornado, you got high winds, and I got a little indifferent rain early in the morning.

    I’m glad all those falling limbs missed your house! I’d be pretty miffed at having to replace a roof twice in ten years!

    On the bright side, literally, do you have noticeably more sun in your yard now?

    Vicki got a tornado? I haven’t heard from her. There will not be so much more light it was the tree over the driveway that was damaged. — mss

  9. From Layanee:

    Glad to hear that you escaped relatively unscathed. Interesting about the big tree and the little cottage. I am loving that turquoise station wagon. Thank goodness the tree missed that classic!

    Our neighborhood is filled with interesting old cottages and old cars, despite the developers working hard to homogenize us. — mss
    Studebaker House

  10. From Jenny - Las Vegas:

    Thank goodness you didn’t suffer any major damage or injuries, but I was especially saddened to read about the old tree falling on the cottage.

    From what we can tell, the tree didn’t have any roots under the pavement, and so basically was a pushover. I’m just glad it happened after Mrs. Mitchell died, though. I think it would have been sadder if the tree she fought to save had crushed her house when she was still living there. — mss

  11. From Mr. McGregor's Daughter:

    Holy cow! That was a near miss. What a drag to have your tree damaged like that but, like you said, at least it didn’t fall on the house (or the car).

    We got off lightly this time. — mss

  12. From Helen (UK):

    Wow – what a lucky escape. I bet your neighbours are wondering what a tornado would be like!

    None of us wants to find out. On May 27, 1997 an F5 tornado scoured the town of Jarrell, TX about 30 miles north of Austin, scraping houses off their foundations, asphalt off the road, and killing 27 people. Our little storm last night, was relatively minor. — mss

  13. From Kathy (New York):

    I am glad you two are all right. Perspective is everything, isn’t it? When you know of much worse disasters, it is easier to be thankful for what didn’t happen.

    Just so. — mss

  14. From Esther Montgomery:

    It sounds dreadful.

    Very frightening.

    I am amazed (and impressed) that you can be so composed.

    Why, I wonder, are the British famed for going on about the weather all the time when you have so much more of it than we do!


    You guys have plenty of weather. What about the terrible flooding last year? The drought the year before? And the Great Storm of October 1987 which felled 15 million trees? — mss

  15. From Benjamin:

    Yikes! Reminds me of the time, growing up, we had two huge, beautiful maples fall into the pool during a storm. My dad and I spent days walking across the pool on tree trunks, trimmin glimbs, then wading in the water, then ripping out liner. But, we did have more sun in the water after that. Enough about me, huh?

  16. From cindee:

    Glad you are o.k. Sorry about the tree limb though. We have big winds here too and we usually have a mess to clean up afterwards. Nothing like there though.

    Well now I have plenty of firewood and leaves for the compost pile. It just hurts me to hear them haul it away all over my neighborhood. But I have more than I can deal with in my own yard so I can’t go chasing tree service trucks begging for ground limbs. — mss

  17. From Iris, Austin, Texas:

    Happy to hear you escaped the worst of it! We, too, had a narrow and lucky escape, as our next-door-neighbor’s 50-ft sycamore, with its treehouse, was completely uprooted.

    Went to look at your photos and the mushed tree house is pretty intense. — mss