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SLO County’s week of winter storms: Big trees, narrow brushes

Crashing trees frayed nerves throughout San Luis Obispo County this week, destroying property and knocking the lights out for thousands of area residents.

In Paso Robles on Friday, a large tree toppled into a house on Vine Street, barely missing a man sleeping inside.

“One rather large branch came through the roof, all the way to the floor,” said Charles Lorenzen, the city’s maintenance services supervisor.

“Very scary.”

About 30 miles away, in Cambria, a couple said they were grateful to have escaped injury after towering pine trees came down on their house, fence, barn and horse trailer within about 24 hours on Wednesday and Thursday.

Similar incidents took place countywide. Between Monday and Friday, County/Cal Fire reported more than three dozen trees fell and 85 power poles were knocked down this week.

Near miss

Mike Rees of Paso Robles and his family are staying in a neighbor’s travel trailer until they can find a more permanent shelter.

It could take three to six months before their home is repaired after a large tree destroyed a garage, cut into a living room and barely missed a man sleeping inside.

When that branch fell, part of it was propped up by another limb and settled about four feet above resident Mike Rees’ head, his son, Shawn Rees, said.

“And I was like ‘Wait, what?’ ” Shawn Rees said of his reaction. “ ‘Dad, what are you saying?’ And he said a big tree fell on the house and almost landed on him.”

The roughly 100-year-old oak, with a trunk about 4 feet in diameter, ripped from the ground during the storm Friday and fell about 4:30 a.m.

The cause appeared to be root rot associated with rising water levels in a creek that runs along the side of the home where the tree once stood, Lorenzen said.

The tree’s canopy was at least 80 feet from limb to limb, he added.

By Friday afternoon, crews had cut the twisted limbs out of the living room. No one was seriously injured when the tree fell, but the home’s roof and the back support wall were heavily damaged, Lorenzen said.

Carol Rees, Shawn Rees' mother, was also home when the tree fell but wasn’t hurt. Mike and Carol Rees couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.

The cost of the damage hasn’t been determined.

‘We’re so lucky’

Jack and Joni Kemp may never again feel the same about the towering pine trees that surround their Buckley Drive home in Cambria.

“We still have a love of our pines,” she said, “but there is a little love lost now.”

Six of the giant trees, each about 100 feet tall, came down on their house, fence, barn and horse trailer within about 24 hours on Wednesday and Thursday.

One pine poked a hole in their home’s roof and sent tiles, insulation, branches and other debris showering down.

“He must have had an angel hovering over him,” Jack Kemp’s scared but grateful wife told The Tribune, “because the tree came crashing through the roof right above him … heading straight for him … but something shielded his head.”

The Kemps said they were insured and plan to rebuild everything. They don’t know yet how much the repairs will cost them out of pocket.

Their horses are safe with friend Leslie Richards’ San Simeon Equestrians ranch, and the Kemps have turned to repairing a soaked and damaged home and a thrashed pasture.

William the Great, a 16-year-old Irish thoroughbred, may have been injured in the barrage of pines. Joni has been treating the horse’s swollen ankle with liniment, ice and wraps.

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