Original Published on Oct 05, 2022 at 07:23
By Rachel Collier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Kearsen Duffney was awake and alert Friday night, attempting to calm her three children ages 3, 6 and 10 who were frightened by flickering power, the sound of whipping wind gusts and trees snapping off down the street.
She gathered her children downstairs in their Montague home when she realized trees were toppling around the neighbourhood. And when she heard a harrowing crack, bang, crunch and felt her home shake, she knew the mature, multi-stemmed maple tree in her front yard had crashed into the house.
“I was terrified,” Ms Duffney said. “The kids were too. They were saying ‘I don’t want to die mom,’ and to be honest I was worried for our safety myself.”
At this point it was only around 10 or 11 pm. “I knew the storm was supposed to get worse through the night, so I thought we really needed to get out.”
The tree had punctured the roof and in the wind it continued to sway, hinging on the root ball and slapping down on the structure. Sheets of rain pounded against the window and water started to trickle into the house. Ms Duffney noticed a crack starting to form in the drywall.
“I was afraid the tree might come farther through the house or the roof might rip off,” she said, adding she isn’t an expert in assessing the structural integrity of a house so she was concerned.
Ms Duffney said she made a rough plan to seek refuge at her neighbours. But upon peeking outside she knew even a short walk across the road, carrying a terrified 3-year-old and guiding her six and eight-year-old could be dangerous. Trees were falling across Patrick Street like dominoes and branches and debris whipped through the air in the wind.
“We almost went out the front door but I’m glad we didn’t because shortly after a tree landed across the driveway, in front of the door right where we would have walked.”
But Ms Duffney felt unsafe to stay inside so she called 911 for support.
Around 2 am the Montague Fire Department arrived at the end of the street.
“All you could see was rain, tree branches in the wind and their red flashing lights,” Ms Dufney said. “I grabbed the kids and we ran for it.”
Firefighters helped the shaken mom and her kids into the truck and took them to the safety of the Montague fire hall which doubled as a warming centre for the night.
“I was so glad to be out of the house and off the street,” Ms Duffney said. “The kids were still scared but they eventually calmed down and we did get some sleep.”
Red Cross provided the family, and one other gentleman who sought overnight shelter, with cots and they spent the night out of harm’s way.
The next day Tyson Proude, the minister at Ms Duffney’s mother’s church, welcomed the family in to stay at their house Saturday, Sunday and Monday nights.
On Tuesday Laird Tree Care arrived on-scene teamed up with crane operator Frank Brothers.
Ms Duffney couldn’t help but hug tree climber Beck Aurell, who worked with her employer Kurt Laird and Mr Brothers to remove the tree from the house. Her family was able to return to their home Tuesday just as power began to flow through the lines on her street.
She was relieved the fallen tree didn’t cause structural damage.
“It’s not something we are going to forget soon,” Ms Duffney said.
Even her 3-year-old is able to articulate the drama.
“The tree broke the house,” the youngster, who has begun showing a keen interest in chainsaws since the episode, said.
Ms Duffney sends thanks to everyone who reached out to support her family following the storm.