Navigating his way around the broken glass, pieces of drywall and other debris that covered the floor of his family’s East Oak Street home on Wednesday afternoon, Robert Biegler examined the damage caused when a tree fell through their roof during a storm on Jan. 16.
“I just had the tree guy out here looking at it, but it’s still there,” Biegler said of the tree.
Although the tree had leaned for years, Biegler said the winds from that night’s storm caused the tree to stand straight up.
“I guess when the wind stopped blowing, the tree came back down and pulled the roots out of the ground,” Biegler said.
Biegler and his two youngest daughters — ages 5 and 7 — were in his room when the tree fell, he said: Biegler in a chair, one girl sleeping in a bed and another doing her homework on the floor.
“I was in the chair when the tree hit. It stopped literally a foot above my head,” Biegler said. “I tried to cover my daughter on the bed, but I couldn’t get up in time.”
Although she was unharmed, Biegler said his daughter, who had been sleeping on the bed, was trapped by debris. His bed kept the tree and more debris from falling into his bedroom, he said.
Biegler was thankful that the power did not go out at his house that night, he said, as the lights stayed on allowing him to see a ceiling fan trapping his daughter in the bed.
“I reached in there, broke the blade out and pulled her out of there,” Biegler said.
Two of Biegler’s other children were in the bedroom next to him when the tree fell, he said, and after making sure all four were safe, he began searching for a way out.
“We couldn’t get out the front door because it was blocked, so we went out the window,” Biegler said. “Just jumped out.”
Although neither Biegler nor his children were injured, he said his daughter who had been doing her homework on his bedroom floor was traumatized by the event, still afraid to walk down the street where she grew up.
“I’m just glad nobody got hurt,” Biegler said. “It could have been a lot worse.”
In their rush to get out of the house, Biegler said he and his family did not have a chance to take many of their belongings.
“We got out with what we could, but we weren’t planning on moving, so what do you do?” Biegler said. “Just take what you can, I guess.”
Biegler and his wife bought the house years ago as it was right across the street from Joe Serna, Jr. Charter School, he said, where some of their children are students.
Despite the memories he made with his family there, Biegler said an inspector told him the house was beyond repair as the weight of the tree pushed the house off of its foundation.
“He said he’s been doing his job for 30 years, and this is the worst house he’s ever seen,” Biegler said. “They said it’s totaled, there is no saving any part of this house.”
“We’ve always wanted to get that tree down because we knew it was going to fall, but we couldn’t get no help with it,” Biegler said.
Biegler said his insurance company has been paying for his family to stay at a motel in Lodi, where he said they have been enjoying the amenities.
“They have a hot tub, a pool, breakfast is cooked every morning,” Biegler said. “And I like having clean sheets every day.”
While his insurance company has been covering his family’s living expenses and working to find them a rental house, Biegler said he still has to decide what to do with the property he purchased years ago.
“Either we build a new house, or we move,” Biegler said. “I’m not sure yet, I’m still deciding.”
Scotto Family Cellars, Biegler’s employer, has been collecting donations of cash and gift cards to help the family at Scotto’s Wine and Cider, 14 S. School Street, Lodi, ever since the tree fell.
Joe Serna has also been collecting donations of gift cards and clothes for his children, he said.
“The school’s been a big help,” Biegler said.
Although Biegler and his family’s living expenses are covered and he will likely be able to find a new home, he said he and his wife would like to take their children on a trip to take their minds off of what happened.
“They go to school right across the street, so I’m sure they see it every day,” Biegler said.