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Monster tree top falls, damaging house

Greg Pioske had a rude awakening from an afternoon nap on Wednesday, June 11.

At about 3:30 p.m., he heard a loud crash and simultaneously felt the house shake. It was like "thunder and an earthquake at the same time," he said.

He got up, looked outside, and couldn't see his Cadillac parked in the driveway through the jungle of tree leaves and branches.

Half the top of a gigantic cottonwood tree in his neighbor's backyard had broken off. The thick limbs landed on his house at 420 Orange St., opening gaping holes in the roof, and on his car, crushing it.

Adding insult to injury, the sky unleashed a downpour about 15 minutes after the tree top fell. There were periodic showers the rest of the day and into the night.

Pioske, who bought the house and moved to Hudson a year and a half ago, was remarkably upbeat about his misfortune the next morning.

He was expecting an insurance adjuster to arrive shortly and said his insurance company had been very helpful.

Mike Fiedler of Interior Care & Construction, a Woodbury, Minn., restoration company, was there waiting for a crane to arrive to take the massive tree limbs off the roof of the house.

Pioske's insurance company had contacted Interior Care & Construction soon after the tree top fell. Fielder and a co-worker had gone up on the roof in the rain late Wednesday afternoon to cover the holes with tarp.

"It was crazy," he said. "We were more scared of the lightning than we were of falling off the roof."

Some of the neighbors who gathered to look at the damage immediately after the tree top fell said there hadn't been any lightning in the neighborhood at the time.

"It wasn't even windy, really. It just went kapoof," one woman said.

She said she had worried about the tree falling for a long time, and added,

"It could have really hurt somebody."

Dianne Kiel, who lives across the street from Pioske, said the tree was struck by lightning about 10 years ago. She believes the strike weakened the tree.

The cottonwood measures 18 feet, nine inches in circumference waist-high from the ground.

Eastern cottonwoods can grow up to 100 feet in height, according to the experts, and this one looks close to being that tall. Half of the tree's Y top broke off about 25 feet up from the ground.

The tree is in the backyard of the house at 424 Orange St. owned by James Rusch of New Richmond. Scott and Carolyn Lucas live there.

Pioske said one of the tree limbs "took out" an upstairs bedroom at the back of the house. Another branch opened a large hole in the roof toward the center of the house.

Pioske and his girlfriend were able to stay in the house Wednesday night after Xcel Energy restored the power to it.

"We felt it was safe enough. Plus, I wanted to stay and see if water was going to come pouring in - see if I could do anything," he said.

Pioske has a job through the North American Carpenters Union, Local 851, setting up and tearing down trade shows at the Minneapolis Convention Center. He moved here from Coon Rapids, Minn., where he grew up.

He had been out on the St. Croix River earlier Wednesday, but returned home when it looked like bad weather was rolling in.

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

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