Chilliwack wind storm brings uninvited guest

Strong winds brought more than a power outage to a Chilliwack neighbourhood. They took down a tree.

Bonnie Fox was preparing a Christmas Day dinner for 19 guests when the party was crashed — by a 100-year-old Douglas Fir that suddenly keeled over and narrowly missed her house in Garrison Crossing.

But a neighbour’s roof and deck were damaged as the huge tree came crashing down over four properties in the neighbourhood at about 1:35 p.m.

“It’s a godsend that it didn’t go through anybody’s house,” Fox said. “It was a miracle that nobody was hurt.”

Christmas Dinner, however, was cancelled.

“We slept in a hotel Christmas night,” Fox said, because two more huge trees remained in the backyard, and city workers were concerned for Fox’s safety as a windstorm had ripped through the Chilliwack area Christmas Day, knocking out electricity to thousands of homes and flipping two planes at Chilliwack airport.

But it seems something called “laminated root rot” may have had more to do with the falling tree than an unusually fierce gust of wind.

Bonnie’s husband Darrell said a Canada Lands Company arborist had “tagged” the three trees for preservation, but as they were being removed another arborist told Fox they had all suffered from “laminated root rot.”

A Canada Lands official explained last week that no sign of the disease is visible by outward appearances, and it is transmitted by root contact only, making it unlikely it is present in the remaining trees that are a signature of the company’s Garrison Crossing housing development.

“This happens to be a disease that’s invisible even to the expert observer,” said Randy Fasan, chief planner at Canada Lands.

The arborist who tagged Fox’s trees for preservation revisited the site after Christmas Day, and reported there is “little concern” for infection in other trees.

“The potential for root-to-root contact between these trees and adjacent trees is extremely remote, therefore the spread of this disease is also remote,” arborist Norman Hol said in the report.

Fox said he might have designed his house differently, if he could have removed the trees, and saved himself and his neighbours a lot of grief.

“We’re a little disappointed because we had our house built around those trees — and now those trees are gone,” he said.