It happened one dark and stormy night. Mom and Dad Putnam and their 3 small children were snug in their beds in their home bordering Tilden Park in the Berkeley hills. Suddenly, above the cracking of thunder and lightning, a different sort of loud crack was followed by a creak — and a tremendous, shuddering crash. Leaping from bed and turning on lights, the Putnams discovered that a tall Monterey Pine from the slope above had toppled down in such a way that its long branches had speared straight through the home’s many skylights — and had also punched right through the roof! The tall tree’s path covered the length of the house, from the master bedroom, across the living room and kitchen, and on to the the children’s rooms at the far end. Miraculously, although tree branches poked like fangs from one end of the house to the other, nobody was harmed.
When the insurance estimator inspected the house, it became clear that the Putnam family had escaped harm by an even narrower margin. It turns out that a previous owner had removed some interior walls to creat a more wide-open floorplan. However, the walls they had removed were load-bearing, and they had not shored up the structure to redistribute the load. Because of this, when the tree fell on the house, it did more than poke its branches through the roof and skylights — it actually torqued the entire roof structure. I visited the house after the insurance company had removed the interior ceilings, and I could see how the framing members were warped and twisted from their original positions. If the tree had been just a little bit hungrier that night, it could have taken a bite out of the whole house, not just the roof!