• Homeowner suffers devastating loss following tree collapse

    By Vera Tan, Ross Terrell and Deme Walls

    For first-time home renter, Michael Stampley, living in a house near a large tree didn’t seem like anything out the ordinary. As a Columbia resident, trees are a ubiquitous part of life, but he noticed some of them were dying.

    “Every place that I’ve lived in for the past five years has had a major tree die in our vicinity,” Stampley said. “The tree was there and healthy and living the year before and the next year it’s gone.”

    The tree that was next to his house now was a Pin Oak tree.

    “It was probably every bit of 125 years old,” Stampley said. “It was an old tree. It had been there for a long time. Even though it was dying, part of the reason they didn’t want to cut it down was because it was the biggest tree on the block. Everybody loved the tree.”

    This decision proved costly when severe storms hit Columbia July 7, 2014. Winds from the storm reached over 50 mph and caused the Pin Oak tree to fall on Stampley’s house. It destroyed more than his shelter.

    “I literally lost all my clothes,” Stampley said. “All my winter clothes, both couches, bed, coffee tables, dresser, you know, every bit of $10,000 in personal items, I lost.”

    While personal losses were costly, the hassle of attempting to remove the tree was overwhelming. The removal of the tree that crushed Stampley’s residence became even more challenging because it was located on his neighbor’s property. These challenges had to be taken on by Stampley’s landlord, Marty Smith.

    “It was actually his tree that was on my property. He never even offered to help with the clean up or anything,” Smith said. “It cost us $1,900 to have that tree removed. Just to be removed off the house, that’s not taken away, they just put it on the ground.”

    Parts of the tree that did not fall onto the house still remain.

    “When I did hire the tree service, the arborists said, ‘Yeah, that tree needs to come down.’” Smith said. “But, the tree still stands.”

    For Smith, who has lived his entire life in Missouri, recognizing a dying tree is second nature. He can spot changes in the trees exterior that gives him an advantage in determining whether or not the tree will be susceptible to damage from storms.

    “You can see when the bark has started slipping on it, and you can see the limbs,” Smith said. “If you’ve got a tree’s leaves that are falling off on a regular basis, that’s a pretty good indication that there might be something.”

    Smith sees the value of being aware of which trees to plant and hopes his neighbors and other residents will do the same.

    “I think that people need to be educated on what trees to plant and what not to plant. Some trees grow big and tall, some grow a few feet and that’s all,” Smith said.

    The Pin Oak is just one type of tree that is intermediate or highly susceptible to storm damage due to their weaker branches and roots. Dead trees also tend to be more susceptible to storm damage and are located throughout Columbia. Stampley said he would like for other homeowners to be aware that if a tree is dead, it should be removed.

    “They don’t see it as a necessity when actually it is because you can lose your whole property,” Stampley said. “We found out the hard way and it wasn’t even our trees.”


    ----------Posted on October 3, 2014 by in Student Work

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