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Blown-down Sellwood tree hits house, smashes car

by: DAVID F. ASHTON - With an earth-shaking crash, a tree falls during the windstorm, crushing a car and damaging a house. If, in the middle of the night, a tree falls in Sellwood, would anyone hear it?

At the height of windstorm that blew through the area early on February 17, the answer was a resounding “yes”, according to resident Henrik Bothe.

“About 2 am, it was windier than all get-out, wilder than I can ever remember in the past,” Bothe told THE BEE.

“It woke us up, and we’re thinking, ‘Wow! It’s really windy!’ The trees were whipping around outside our house like nothing we’d ever heard before.”

Then, near their house on S.E. Lambert Street, west of 9th Avenue, they heard worrisome sounds.

“It started with a little splintering sound, but mostly a ‘ko-chunk’ followed by a ground-shaking ‘foom-thud’! It was so loud; we thought a tree might have come down.” He was right: One did.

An instant later, “we heard a ‘pop’ and a big explosion,” Bothe described. “There was a big, bright flash of blue-white light that lit up everything.”

They discovered, when they ventured outside their now-blacked-out house, that an electrical power transformer had exploded, down the block near Sellwood Park.

“Everyone on the street must have heard the crash and saw the flash,” Bothe said. “So, in the middle the night, neighbors were coming out dressed in their pajamas looking to see what happened.”

Those with flashlights illuminated what had happened at 825 S.E. Lambert Street – a giant fir tree gave way in the wind, and crashed northward, collapsing a Multnomah County fleet car parked on the street, and damaging the house.

The eaves over the front porch were clearly damaged, as well as some of the roof. “The house got such a blow, I was told that it might have moved it on the foundation, or damaged it,” mused Bothe.

It took two hours for crews with large chainsaws to uncover the smashed car; it took days to clear all the debris away from the front of the home. Winds that night were clocked at the Portland Airport as gusting to 55 miles an hour.