Watch a video of an interview with David Bradshaw and footage of the two massive trees here.
David Bradshaw and his mother had just moved from — of all places — Miami, Florida, to Statesboro three days before he heard a massive old oak tree crash onto a neighbor’s house early Monday morning during the passing of Hurricane Irma.
Around midday or early afternoon, Bradshaw saw a smaller, but still tall and imposing, second oak tumble into the yard of the house he and his mother had just moved into, striking it near an edge of a roof. But they and their landlord were the lucky ones.
The damage to his neighbor’s house, on the corner of Henry Street and Miller Street, was the most significant known in Statesboro as of Tuesday. The larger tree smashed a corner of the 1920s wood-frame house, leaving a large portion of the attic space gaping open and part of the ground floor hidden underneath the trunk.
Bradshaw described the two trees, which fell nearly parallel on opposite sides of the street, as elderly marriage partners who couldn’t live without each other.
“It looked like two, an old married couple, that had been on this earth many years, and one left and the other one say, ‘Well, I ain’t got no more use here. I might as well go on home, too.’ And so he just laid down right next to her.”
Less poetically, Bradshaw said he heard “this crunch” before he looked out his front door and saw the big tree had fallen onto the neighbors’ home sometime after 6 a.m. He called 911 in case nobody else had.
Homeowner Rodie Hunter, 68, and her son Greg Hunter, who is in his 40s, live in the house across the street and were there when the big tree fell on it. The crash woke them up, said Rodie Hunter. Her son was asleep in the middle bedroom. The corner room the tree fell on is Mrs. Hunter’s bedroom, but about 4:30 a.m., she had got up and moved to a back room, she said.
“The Holy Spirit, I guess, or something just woke me up,” Hunter told the Statesboro Herald in a call Tuesday evening. “Well, I had somewhat planned to go sleep in the back room back there, but after I saw the wind, the rain looked like it wasn’t as bad as they had anticipated, I just said I’d try to be mindful, and set my alarm clock to 4 o’clock because I’d kind of understood it was to come in the early part of the morning.”
After the crash, she couldn’t get back into her bedroom because of the intruding tree, part of which was on her bed, she said.
But neither she nor her son was injured. For now they have gone to stay with her other son and his wife, who are also Statesboro residents. Rodie Hunter said she has lived in the house on Henry Street since about 1992, and it is insured.
Second tree falls
Across the side street, around midday or later, Bradshaw happened to look out a bathroom window as he was walking by and saw the second tree fall into the yard of his and his mother’s home, he said. She’s 90, and they just moved in Friday.
“I thank God that we’re safe. He watched over us,” Bradshaw said. “And that’s them people over there, too, because none of them got hurt.”
Both trees broke off at the base, from their roots. A gust of wind probably hit about the time the first tree fell, Bradshaw said, but added that he didn’t think it took much, because the ground was saturated already.
Jay Saxon, as a volunteer representing Mormon Helping Hands, was also in the neighborhood Tuesday, leaving contact information.
The organization, with volunteers from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Statesboro, rallies into action with equipment such as chainsaws and tarps after a weather disaster such as Hurricane Irma. Saxon, who owns Saxon Design Builders, said Mormon Helping Hands would put a tarp on a house to keep water out, all free of charge, until the property owners make further arrangements for repairs.
“We’ve been blessed, so people that need help, we’re happy to help,” Saxon said.
In the case of the giant old oak, the volunteers wouldn’t be able to remove the stump portion but would gladly remove the part that is on the roof, he said.
Help from Mormon Helping Hands is available through the national nonprofit organization Crisis Cleanup at (800) 451-1954. The new local volunteer organization Bulloch County VOAD and the Bulloch County Emergency Management Agency are coordinating with these groups. Saxon’s phone number is (912) 512-0176.
The need for emergency tree removal and roof patches in the Statesboro area is far less than after Hurricane Matthew hit in October 2016, all sources agreed.
Last fall, local volunteers with Mormon Helping Hands worked at close to 300 sites. The group started with about 150 to 200 workers the first weekend and had 15-20 on the job through 17 or 18 more weekends, Saxon said.
“We started here in Statesboro, and once we got all of our jobs in Statesboro and the surrounding area done, we went to Ellabell and towards Claxton … and Pembroke and on towards Savannah, and helped in downtown Savannah and went to Rincon and then to Beaufort and Lady’s Island till we got them all done,” he said.
Mormon Helping Hands made an 8 a.m. Wednesday appointment for work on Hunter’s house.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.