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Storm packs a wallop

Wood Village girl, 14, escapes unharmed after tree crashes into room
by: Carole Archer, On Friday, Dec. 15, Tim Hesson surveys the damage a tree did to his Wood Village home the previous day.

East County residents are used to windy weather. Bone-chilling east winds out of the Columbia River Gorge have taught folks to freeze trash and tether barbecue grills to keep them from blowing away.

But Thursday night's storm, which punched the Oregon Coast and Willamette Valley with hurricane-force winds, caught some local residents off guard.

Tim and Suzan Hesson of Wood Village were in their bedroom watching 'The Office' with their daughter Hali, 14, just after 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 14, when they heard a snap, crackle, pop.

About 30 seconds later, a neighbor's fir tree came crashing through their upstairs bedroom window. Hali, stretched out on a chaise lounge in front of the window, found herself buried under branches, glass, sheetrock and insulation.

'She was fine, we pulled her out,' Tim said on Friday morning while surveying the damage to his home on Northeast Shamrock Drive. '… By the grace of God, it hit in the right spot.'

By that he means the tree landed on a support beam over the window. Granted, it snapped the beam in half, but nobody was hurt. There is however a 6-by-5-foot hole where the window used to be, plus another 4 to 5 feet of missing ceiling.

'Everybody's safe, that's all we were worried about,' Tim said.

But just in case, as winds kicked up again at 10 p.m., the family dragged sleeping bags into the living room, where they slept through the night.

•••

Earlier that evening at about 6 p.m., Julie Edmondson, 34, of Gresham was getting ready for her company Christmas party when the phone rang.

'I can't believe you already have a tree down,' a neighbor said.

'We do?' Edmondson replied.

Sure enough, winds had ripped off a large misshapen branch from a cedar tree at the entrance of her long driveway off Southeast Dodge Park Boulevard and Short Road. The wind also blew down a 25 mph sign and tilted another traffic sign in front of the Edmondson home.

On Friday, her son Cole, 6, scrambled over the downed branch, as his twin sisters, Kylie and Kennedy, 4, played with a yet-to-be named white kitten.

Edmondson said she was more worried about the small grove of cedars closer to the house than the couple by Short Road. So worried that she instructed the babysitter watching the children while mom and dad attended that holiday party to bring the kids down into the basement.

But Edmondson isn't too broken up about the loss of her tree. Truth be told, she never really liked it. In fact, she wanted to remove it, but her husband Scott claimed it had character.

'Problem solved,' she quipped.

•••

That's not true for the little black car over on Northeast Hood Avenue in downtown Gresham.

Winds ripped the roots of a huge fir tree out of soggy soil between Northeast Seventh and Eighth avenues, sending the tree crashing onto a Honda Civic LX parked in front of a doctor's office. The car's top, from the windows on up, completely crumpled under the tree's massive weight. Gresham public works employees cut up the tree, piling chunks of wood along the sidewalk near what is left of the 3-foot wide trunk.

The car, now a glass and sawdust covered convertible, waits for its unlucky owner.

Another motorist got stuck Thursday night at 10:20 p.m. when a tree came crashing down in front of the pickup in the 31200 block of Southeast Dodge Park Road. The driver was unable to stop in time and the truck's front axle got caught on the tree. Firefighters had to cut the tree away to clear the roadway and used jacks to separate the truck from the tree.

•••

A power outage sparked a last-minute change of venue for Snow-CAP Community Charities' annual Christmas breakfast. Volunteers spent Thursday decorating and stocking Gresham Greater Baptist Church for the breakfast, only to have the storm knock out its electricity.

Early Friday, Dec. 15, organizers moved the fund-raiser to Gresham Memorial Chapel. For the first time in the breakfast's seven-year history, participants could brag that they dined in a funeral home.

'Some people were joking about it,' said Lorie Wageman, Snow-CAP's assistant director. '… It could have been worse. The body could have still been in the room. That would have put a downer on things.'

Instead, the breakfast got a late start - about 8 a.m. instead of 7:30 a.m. - and wrapped up earlier than usual to make way for a scheduled funeral service.

'They'll remember this one,' Wageman said with a chuckle. 'We're all still laughing.'