DES MOINES — A tree fell in East Leland, just after 5 p.m. when the storms were starting to pick up in Des Moines. Neighbors say it’s the worst damage they’ve seen around there in decades. But it’s also not unusual for them to see things like this happen.
The neighborhood has a lot of really old white ash trees. So, they’re all kind of brittle. They’ve had a number of limbs fall off and into the streets over the years. This was just a worst-case outcome.
On East Leland, neighbors know how just dangerous storms can be.
“It’s pretty well isolated too. For a while it was just these three trees and then this one was last year, and this one was the furthest down we’ve seen it on this block,” says resident Matt Brobston.
When the storm picked up intensity, one neighbor saw sparks flying from a house as a tree was uprooted and landed right on it.
Brobston says they see things like this every year. “We keep an eye on the trees across the street, just to see how windy it is, and we always keep an eye on the tree out back too, because it hangs over our garage, and I guess we’ve got some paranoia about that.”
This time, first responders knew right away no people were home. but there were several pets inside. “Just like anything else, the animal can kind of feel the mood that you’re bringing as you come into the place. So, staying calm, and making sure that your voice resonates that helpfulness is big, “says Capt. Bob Suarez with the Des Moines Fire Department.
While this doesn’t happen often in Des Moines, firefighters have a plan ready to go. “The search and rescue piece isn’t foreign to us. The structural collapse isn’t foreign to us, it really comes down to how many places were damaged, and what other emergencies are going on and what resources are available.”
Captain Suarez says the key in these situations is problem solving and remembering to focus on the whole picture. “We can get funnel vision sometimes where we’re really focused on the task, and we might miss that thing, if you will. So, marking it and identifying it is probably the biggest thing we can do.”
That’s a relief for Brobston, whose mailbox is still damaged from another tumbling limb. “It’s very frightening. You really underestimate how heavy tree limbs are until you see them on the ground.”
The City of Des Moines got about thirty calls for service during the storms on Saturday night. About a third of those were related to downed power lines and falling tree limbs.
Neighbors say the family is staying in a hotel for the time being and their church is also working to help them make repairs.