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When trees attack

Posted by Richard on May 24, 2006

Monday night was interesting. Some fairly strong thunderstorms moved through Denver, and my house was in the path of one "microburst" with rather intense winds. Fortunately, the storm was considerate enough to wait until after 9 PM (MDT) to strike, so it didn’t interrupt the season finale of 24. 🙂

Dan, my neighbor to the south, used to have a 50-60 foot blue spruce in his back yard. Now it’s in my back yard. Actually, it stretches across three yards (my lot’s only 33 feet wide).

blue spruce fills back yard

The picture above was taken from the alley. That’s my house roof in the middle of the picture. Dan’s house, fence, and garage are on the left. My little garage (which I just use as an oversized storage shed) is on the right.

Here’s a shot from the other side, looking toward my poor little garage:

blue spruce across corner of garage

The tree extends into Margaret’s yard to the north of me. It took down the power lines to all three of us. The Xcel Energy crew got my lines back up about 3:30 AM, after a fair bit of chainsaw work. I took these pictures on Tuesday morning; this is the tree after they’d removed several large branches so they could string power lines above it.

The Xcel folks temporarily replaced my mast, meter, and service panel, all of which had been pulled off the house. Amazingly, I still had partial power — until they came and cut the line. Apparently, basic 220-volt service actually includes two 110-volt lines that are out of phase, or different colors or flavors, or something. The tree pulled my service line to the ground, but only snapped one of the 110-volt wires.

I had some power, but it was strange: a few circuits worked; at least one worked initially, but then quit; and a couple seemed to have low voltage, like a "brownout." For instance, the bedroom TV (old-fashioned CRT) came on, but the picture was dim, distorted, and slightly shrunken; if I turned on my bedside lamp, the TV picture shrunk further. Weird.

So far, the insurance folks have been nice enough, and Dan assured me that he feels responsible and promised that it won’t cost me anything. I’m still waiting on estimates, and I’m hoping his company (Allstate) and mine (Travelers) will work out who pays what with minimal involvement or aggravation on my part.

But Dan and I have already discovered that both our policies have a $500 limit on "debris removal." I never noticed that limit before, but I’d have thought nothing of it if I had. "Debris removal" conjures up an image of someone doing a little shoveling and sweeping up, doesn’t it?

Well, in this case, the "debris" to be removed is the 50 or 60 feet of tree trunk and all the associated branches. Not to mention assorted broken cinder blocks, bricks, snapped joists, splintered roof decking, etc. Today, Dan got an estimate of $1600 just for removing the tree. If you’re paranoid about falling trees around your property, better check your policy for that "debris removal" limitation and see what it costs to bump up that limit.

Sadly, May is a bad time to lose a large tree in terms of impact on wildlife. This spruce was home to quite a few birds, and this time of year, most of them had chicks in the nest. There are several dead birds in my yard, mainly "younguns," as they say down south. A shame, really. If birds are going to die, why can’t it be the stinkin’ pigeons that have started hanging around the neighborhood? Damned rats with wings.

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One Response to “When trees attack”

  1. Rick Shultz said

    Looks like you got a real mess there my friend.

    FYI there three wires that are connected to the

    house. One of them is the ground and the other

    two as you know are indeed 110 volt lines that

    are 180 degrees out of phase. When you go across the two 110 volt lines with an oscillo-

    scope (that is if you happen to have one :=))

    you will see a 220 volt amplitude 60 HZ sine wave. The reason some of your circuits worked

    and some didn’t was that some of the circuits

    in your house are connected to one 110 volt “leg” and others are connected to the other 110 volt “leg”. The brownout effect is

    leakage from one “leg” to the other through

    the ground lead because ALL of your circuits are connected to the same ground. So much for Electronics 101. So write back and tell me how the hell you’ve been lately. See Ya.

    Rick Shultz

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