Eleven months ago this happened...
I will give a quick recollection of the day though not really just a recollection as I really know every detail by heart.
We had a wind advisory that day and I was a little nervous as I always am on windy days/nights as we are surrounded by giant fir trees. I picked up my girls from school around 2pm and wind was picking up. We got home and it really started coming on strong. We could hear pinecones and branches pelting our house like a war zone. Every hit made me and the girls jump. We stepped into our little hallway going into kitchen and I was actually recording on my phone the sounds to send to my husband because it was so loud and crazy. I heard a loud bang and thought I better back up, and just as I backed up the tree fell in. The girls and I were standing a little farther back then the shot of the last photo above. We saw the tree fall in. We screamed and ran towards the other side of the house. This was after we had been home for maybe an hour or hour and a half.
To say our adrenaline was in overdrive is a mild statement. I felt trapped in the house. We didn't know where to go to be safe and if anymore trees were going to fall in. We certainly couldn't go outside either. We are still dumbfounded by what happened next and even contractors and architects were scratching their heads on what caused this, but after the tree hit, our french doors in our dining room and back master bedroom blew open. These are wood french doors that were deadbolted shut. Blown right open, splitting the wood. Our two attic access hatches were also blown up into the air and dropped.
I immediately called my husband at work and couldn't get through. I couldn't even process how to dial the phone at first. I just stood looking at it, thinking what am I supposed to do with this? I then called my parents, who live just a few blocks away. We didn't have a clue what to do. What do you do when a huge fir tree falls in your house?
Here are my tips of what to do.
1. If you are at home at the time, go to a safe place. Put on shoes if you aren't already wearing them, as there could be broken glass or sharp debris.
2. Turn off any electricity to the affected area of the home. We had dangling live wires hanging from the ceiling. Our power had gone out shortly after the hit, as well as the rest of the neighborhood. If we didn't turn off the electricity it could have started a fire when power came back on or someone could be electrocuted. Since our house was hit so violently almost like a earthquake, we shut off gas but that might not be necessary for everyone.
3. Don't call 911, unless someone is hurt. I had called them because I had NO IDEA what I was supposed to do. Unless someone is hurt, there is nothing they can do and it is a waste of time for them and their resources. Lesson learned.
4. Call your insurance company asap. Sooner you get that claim going the sooner they can get to addressing it. They will not send anyone over that night. We actually didn't have anyone come for a couple weeks. They don't work on who has worse claim either. If your area has been hit hard, they will have several claims going and it will take awhile to get someone out to your home. We felt pretty frustrated about that part but it's something you will have to be patient about. This occurred on November 17th. About a week and half later, our house was broken into! A local representative came out and pretty much did a quick survey but that's it. We had to wait until early December for the Big Claims Representative to come in from the East Coast. He brought an architect and they survived and measured every square inch of the home. They basically write up a blueprint of your home and address everything that needs to be repaired. I will have to write a seperate post on what to expect from insurance company after this point.
5. Insurance company will tell you to go stay in a hotel and to do whatever you need to do to secure your home. They will reimburse you.
6. Call a tree service. Three giant firs fell that night from my neighbor's property, one hitting our house, one hitting their house and one falling in between our two properties. They called a tree service right away and we just used the same company. They were able to get on the house roof that night and trim back tree limbs and cover our exposed roof with tarp. This will save you from getting more damage. They had to come back the next day to pull the tree off the houses.
7. Then find a good and honest contractor as soon as possible. Preferably someone that has dealt with insurance claims before and know what they are doing. We were very lucky to have our neighbor who is a contractor do the work and he knew the ins and outs of dealing with insurance companies in the past.
8. Lastly, if you are in situation like we were and had to leave the home that night and couldn't live in the home until it was repaired, start looking for alternative living. Our insurance company paid for us to live in a rental home. They had a company searching for a home or apartment that was suitable in size and distance to girls school but we ended up finding the home ourselves. So don't be afraid to look on craigslist, zillow or wherever and do some sleuthing too for rentals. We stayed at my parents house for a month until we found our rental. We were out of the house for 8 months fyi.
What happens after the hit... emotionally?
I wasn't upset about the house at all surprisingly. A lot of people that know how much we put into redoing our house and updating, etc. thought we'd be so sad to see it destroyed. I really wasn't. All I could do was be grateful. Grateful it wasn't worse. The house can be repaired and all the "stuff" could be replaced.
What happened later is the hardest to get through. I couldn't go to sleep without seeing flashbacks of the tree falling over and over. I couldn't help thinking of what could've happened if girls were home alone, or if they or our dog were sitting on that couch. My nerves were fried. I really think I had a small form of PTSD. I was on verge of tears at all times. Not because of the house but because of the fear. I would jump at any sound. We had a few more heavy windstorms after that night and I was a basketcase! I felt fearful of everything. I would turn red inside when someone would tell me that it won't happen again. I would like to think I am an intelligent person. My brain knows this was a freak thing and chances of it happening again are extremely slim, but I'm guessing anyone you ask that has been hit with lightening if they still go out in storms now, and I'm pretty sure they'll say no. When I heard wind, all those fears, anxiety, and feelings from that night came rushing back.
We have friends that had a similar situation happen to them years back and I remember how awful it was but you just don't know what they are feeling emotionally and how long that emotion goes on until you experience it yourself.
If this happens to someone you know, be a shoulder to cry on and don't forget to keep checking in on them during this process. It is a long process, rebuilding the home and rebuilding the feeling of safety.
So those are my tips. I hope they help and also hoping that none of you ever actually have to use them.
As for me and my family we will be hiding out somewhere in the house where we are hoping no trees can hit. I really wish we had a basement right now.