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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow Big windstorm topples trees

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Big windstorm topples trees

A 40-foot Russian olive tree smashed a 1950 GMC pickup truck and a 2003 Ford Taurus in northeast Baker City. (Baker City Herald/Kathy Orr).
A 40-foot Russian olive tree smashed a 1950 GMC pickup truck and a 2003 Ford Taurus in northeast Baker City. (Baker City Herald/Kathy Orr).

By JAYSON JACOBY

Of the Baker City Herald

Amy Clarke was striving to save her lawn furniture from the windstorm that whipped through Baker City Sunday evening when a gust toppled a tree onto an object that's more valuable and cherished:

Her husband Nelson's restored 1950 GMC pickup truck.

The Russian olive tree, a 40-footer that stood on the Nelsons' property at the corner of E and Birch streets in northeast Baker City, smashed the truck's hood.

"That's his baby," Amy Clarke said of her husband's truck, a three-quarter-ton flatbed model that he's owned for about 20 years.

Nelson Clarke estimated the truck's value at $5,000. Completely restored versions of the same model could fetch $16,000, he said.

"It was a good truck," Nelson said.

And might still be.

Although the tree crushed the truck's hood, Nelson Clarke said he doesn't know whether the frame or engine were damaged, too.

"It might be repairable," he said.

Amy Clarke was standing on her backyard deck when the tree fell about 5:10 p.m.

"I was trying to secure our lawn furniture," she said. "I remember that last storm."

That tempest, which targeted Baker City during Memorial Day weekend, tipped over the Clarkes' deck table, shattering its glass top.

While Amy Clarke was trying to tie down the surviving furniture during Sunday's storm, her 11-year-old son, Peter, rushed onto the deck to tell her that wires were down in the front yard.

Wires, and two power poles, and that Russian olive.

"I just can't believe these storms," Amy Clarke said. "It's just wild."

Nelson Clarke said Sunday's storm seemed much less severe than its Memorial Day weekend predecessor.

The automatic weather station at the Baker City Municipal Airport malfunctioned during the height of Sunday's storm. The station's anemometer recorded a peak gust of 24 mph.

Winds topped 65 mph during the Memorial Day storm.

Yet the Clarkes' olive tree survived that big blow, only to succumb to Sunday's lesser gale.

"Maybe the first storm had weakened it," Clarke said. "It's hard to say."

Besides crushing Clarke's truck and felling OTEC's power poles, the Russian olive damaged a 2003 Ford Taurus owned by the Clarkes' neighbors, Al and Kelly Brickman.

The Taurus sustained some dents, but came off much better than the pickup truck, said the Brickmans' son, Kyle.

The Clarkes and Brickmans were among 1,027 OTEC customers in Baker City who lost power Sunday when trees or limbs fell into electric lines.

OTEC crews restored power to 293 customers at 6:45 p.m., and to everyone else by 8:20 p.m.

Another 527 customers in the Sumpter-Granite areas were without power from 11:30 a.m. to 11:38 a.m. Sunday.

A tree had tangled with a power line earlier in the day, and OTEC crews turned off power for eight minutes so workers could clear the line.

Across Baker City from the Clarkes' property, Margaret Morris sought the shelter of her home when a breeze suddenly grew into a gale.

That was a good idea.

Morris and her husband, Norman, were safely inside, watching television, when a sound outside drowned out both the TV set and the moaning wind.

"We heard a big snap," Margaret Morris said.

That big snap came from a big tree.

A gust had lopped a large limb from the elm tree in front of the Morrises' home at the corner of 15th and Broadway streets.

The limb, about eight inches thick and more than 20 feet long, fell across 15th Street.

Drivers briefly had to detour onto a neighbor's driveway, but Norman Morris, with help from his grandson, Kevin Haye, and nephew, Mike Morris, quickly sawed the limb and cleared it from the street.

Margaret Morris said the limb damaged a guy wire holding down a power pole, but did not snap any of the current-carrying lines.

She said past storms stripped a few other thick limbs from the elm.

Morris doesn't know how the tree's age, but she said she's lived at the corner for almost 40 years, and she said the elm "was pretty big when we moved in."

Despite their proximity to the de-limbed elm, the Morrises never lost power during Sunday's storm, nor did the severed limb damage their home, car or other property.

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