As loud cracking sounds split the air and their house began to shake Sunday night, a Guerneville couple knew what was coming — a huge tree falling their way.
The fir tree smashed into Doug and Beth Snow’s Orchard Road home as well as their neighbor’s house around 9 p.m. — the aftermath of almost two weeks of rain that loosened soil and led to myriad problems around the county.
Although Monday was dry, Sonoma County road crews and firefighters continued to deal with rockslides and standing water that left several roads closed to traffic.
On Monday afternoon, Beth Snow recalled that she and her husband had been concerned about falling trees in the wake of the stormy weather. As they watched television Sunday night, the concern became real.
“All of a sudden it sounded like a train was coming through the house,” Snow said. “We knew what it was. It was so loud you could tell it was really close. The scary thing is, you don’t know where to go. You don’t know where it’s going to land.”
The longtime Guerneville residents got under a doorway until the shaking stopped. As the strong smell of fir tree filled the home, they knew the damage was probably bad.
The large tree happened to fall in a narrow area between the Snows’ home and a neighbor’s, causing significant damage to both residences as branches punctured the roofs and broke through walls into bedrooms. But the trunk’s serendipitous landing between the homes prevented what could have been far worse destruction and the injury or death of someone inside.
At the Snow home, two branches pierced the ceiling of one bedroom and then poked back up through the roof again. Snow joked that the sight of a large branch extending across the ceiling was a distinctive feature they could consider leaving.
The damage could have been worse, Snow said. No pictures fell off the walls, nothing was knocked over and key structural areas weren’t badly damaged, she said.
Her husband’s red pickup, however, was demolished when part of the tree slammed into where it was parked outside.
“We were wondering what to do with it anyway,” she said of the vehicle. “So that’s solved.”
Damage to the Snows’ neighbor’s home was more extensive. The homeowner declined to be interviewed.
As with other large trees that toppled over during the recent rains — damaging at least two other west county homes — the roots of the fir had been pulled up out of the soggy soil. The fallen tree stretched between the two houses, across the street and into a neighbor’s yard, Snow said.
“We were all very fortunate it decided to land between the houses,” she said. “It was a bit of a miracle.”
The tree’s crash capped more than three days of steady storms that brought almost 3 inches of rain to Santa Rosa and more than 7 inches in the county’s wettest micro-climates, including the hills northwest of Healdsburg.
Thanks to the El Niño weather pattern, Santa Rosa has received 98 percent of its average rainfall for the period beginning Oct. 1 — a total of 29.2 inches, said Diana Henderson, a forecaster with the National Weather Service.
Santa Rosa has logged 9.12 inches of rain in March, more than four inches above normal.