Tree removal needed

Estelle Miller was hoping that having a tree hit her house would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but it happened to her again on Thanksgiving night.

Miller, 84, said she didn’t hear the tree hit as she had apparently fallen into a deep sleep. But when she awoke the next morning, the 12-inch diameter hemlock was lying across her roof.

It was bad news for Miller, who only last April had to deal with another tree that hit her house. That one caused much more damage, shattering the chimney, destroying the TV antenna and damaging the roof. She paid her $500 insurance deductible, then the insurance company paid more than $3,000 to make repairs.

Miller blames the falling trees on her neighbors, who largely clearcut a small stand of trees that she said had served as a windbreak over the 40 years she has lived at the house on De Graff Road above Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.

“This never happened before,” she said.

As of Friday, the hemlock was still on her roof. Miller thought the neighbors should remove it, but they refused since she wouldn’t sign an agreement saying they weren’t responsible for damages.

Miller then sought help from Rita Worley, who administers the Volunteer Lawyer Program in Island County. Worley, not a lawyer herself, doubted Miller had a claim against the neighbors. Miller says she wrote a letter after the first tree hit, asking the neighbors to cut down the few remaining trees, but she didn’t retain a copy of the letter. And while the neighbors wouldn’t remove the hemlock from Miller’s house, they did cut down two other trees that may have posed a danger in future windstorms.

Miller is a widow who once worked at Whidbey Golf & Country Club. She’s troubled by a bad back and has survived several major surgeries, so she’s in no shape to go into the tree removal business.

“All I’m asking is that they get that tree off my house,” she said.

Worley climbed a ladder to inspect the damage, which was minimal. “I didn’t see any holes in the roof,” she said. The roof was slightly dented where the tree hit, but that was all the apparent damage.

Miller said she won’t tell her insurance company about the latest incident. She’s afraid her rates may be raised or her policy canceled.

Worley, meanwhile, started checking with Island County and service organizations to find someone — anyone — willing to remove the tree from Estelle Miller’s house.

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