Michael Gooderum had just returned from a relatively benign task Monday at one of his rental properties.
He sipped coffee in the warmth of his kitchen as a snowstorm blanketed Eau Claire. Gooderum gazed out over his 4-acre South Lowes Creek Road property on the city’s south side.
The first “crack” was somewhat subdued. Others that followed were less so. A plume of snow erupting from his yard provided the finale.
“I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing,” Gooderum said. “It had a raw sound to it.”
When the “dust” had settled, he found that the top half or so of the largest tree on his property — a white pine more than 100 feet tall when intact — had landed squarely on his vintage silver 1964 Avion travel trailer.
“It smashed the middle as if the tree was intentionally aiming for it,” said Gooderum of the arboreal assault, “and is currently laying inside the crevice it created.
“It blew out windows and the tires instantly.”
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John Killey, owner of an Eau Claire insurance agency bearing his name, said such incidents are not that common.
“I would say that we have more trees and limbs go down from windstorms rather than from the weight of ice and snow,” he said. “We only get involved when there is damage to the property such as to the home or a fence or a detached structure.”
“On another note, we do see collapse of roofs on homes and garages and sheds from the weight of ice and snow quite often when the winter brings the heavy snowstorms.”
Gooderum is optimistic about his insurance helping out with his dilemma. He’ll place a tarp over the crime scene for now and have the surrounding brush removed. Using a house jack to bend the trailer back into form is on the list of possible remedies.
There are precautions some homeowners can take, Killey said, to lessen their chances of a similar experience.
“The best advice is to assess the tree situation yearly and then remove dead trees and branches before any damage can be done,” he said. “Also, use common sense by planting trees at a safe distance from the home.
“Have all trees trimmed regularly by a qualified tree service.”
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Ironically, Gooderum had recently hired a service to inspect the trees on his property. The assessment did not identify the offending tree as a risk.
In the fallout of the storm late last week, Gooderum would walk around his forested lot and hear “six to eight branches fall per minute,” he said, though the Avion did not suffer additional damage. The trailer has not been on the road for a while and is used for storage by Gooderum and his wife, Dana.
The Gooderums sell antiques out of two booths at The Shed in Altoona. They also are accessible on Etsy, an online marketplace, as “TheMidwestMan” and “EauClaireVintage.” On eBay, their wares are available through “Dana-Alaska.”
Vintage trucker caps are among his specialties, said Michael, who added that rusty items, concrete yard products and anything cast iron are currently popular. The two travel the country in an RV of the same make used originally in the television show “American Pickers” to collect inventory.
“I think people appreciate how things used to be made,” Gooderum said.
“You learn about what people want, what sells.”
Gooderum is a Minnesota native who had spent much of his adult life in Alaska before relocating to Wisconsin. He said the picturesque scene in Eau Claire following last week’s snowstorm is what Anchorage, Alaska, looks like all winter.
“I think they’re the three coldest states in the nation,” he said. “I’m just not made for warmer climates.”
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