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Family narrowly escapes as tree destroys living room

Jim Carpenter and his son, Evan, on top of the white pine that crashed through their home after Hurricance Sandy ripped it from the ground.

 

Illuminated by candles, Aimee Carpenter sat at her desk working on new ideas for her renown website, CraftyFarmGirl.com, as Hurricane Sandy tore through the region. Outside, the sound of steady 50-mph winds whipped across her Tokeneke Trail lawn, churning up debris and knocking power out to 92% of the town.

As she sat working, her back began aching. She went to the kitchen to grab some Bengay. As she handed the tube to her daughter, an earth-shattering crash exploded from the family room.

“We went running to see what this amazingly crazy noise was,” Carpenter told The Times. An 80-foot tall white pine tree crashed right on top of the desk. It crushed the area where she had been sitting a few moments earlier.

“My backache saved my life,” she said. The tree destroyed that corner of her house, mangling rafters and transforming their once warm living space into a cacophony of broken glass, splintered wood and shattered bricks.

“I don’t scare easy,” Carpenter said. “And this was scary.”

“My son and his school friend were sitting in the room at the time,” she said, “and had boards and debris raining down on them as I ran in to pull them out.”

But it wasn’t quite over. There were still lit candles with plenty of combustibles nearby. A potential fire in the making.

They grabbed some glasses of water and tried to snuff out the flames as it tickled nearby debris. The first attempt failed. The candles were out of reach. With little time to spare, they tried again. Success.

There was however a silver lining — nobody was hurt.

“We lost four major trees in total on our property, but with no damage to human or animal I consider us lucky,” she said. “All animals are fine, although the farm looks like a war zone and there is fencing down everywhere.”

Her son Eric and his friend Leo were sitting on the couch when the tree crashed around them, but they remained unharmed.

The Carpenter’s home is framed with bricks, which absorbed much of the impact as the tree came down, said Aimee’s husband, Jim.

“If we had a wood-framed house, our kids would be dead,” he said.

Most of what was broken is replaceable, Carpenter said, but a folk art collection that was hanging on the wall suffered some damage and will have to be repaired. It took tree crews two days to removed the evergreen from their home. For a while their roof was covered with a tarp, now it’s covered with plywood. Jim said the whole section of the house might need to be torn down and rebuilt.

Outside, the giant root ball from the pine lay perpendicular to the ground. One of two chicken coops that sit on the Carpenter’s property was pushed to an angle as the roots upheaved. Jim said the chickens tried to roost in the crooked coop, but were having trouble navigating the awkward angles, which made for a humorous sight.

“Walking into the coop you kind of get vertigo,” Aimee said. The Carpenters sell fresh eggs to area neighbors and they also have several goats, and Aimee was learning how to make cheese in Vermont when she interviewed with The Times for this story.

No animals were hurt from the storm, but their goat fence was damaged in several places.

The day after the storm, an entrepreneurial and philanthropic spirit came over their 12-year-old daughter, Maia. She put up a hot chocolate stand to cater to the many line and tree crews who worked around the clock to restore power to the town.

“People asked us if we were shocked and I said, ‘No’,” Jim said. “It only lasted a second. It’s only if somebody’s hurt or dead do you have a serious problem. If everybody’s alive — you’ve got a hole in your roof. That can be fixed.”

ddesroches@darientimes.com

Debris rained down on the Carpenter’s son, Evan, and his friend as they sat on the couch when the tree crashed through.

A chicken coop was knocked off kilter when the tree uprooted.

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