Wind, Tree Limbs Mark Sandy's Passing
Collingswood residents Jerry Mazzola, Ken Bere and Allan Ross all face some clean-up issues from trees that came down during the storm.
“I thought the Mars Rover landed on the roof,” said Browning Road resident Jerry Mazzola.
As the rains lashed at the floor-to-ceiling windows of his Frank Weise-designed home on Monday, Mazzola and his partner, Ken Bere, were preparing a meal for their visiting guest, Aaron Webber. Like so many other plans, Webber's return flight to Seattle had been scrapped by weather.
“We heard this ungodly noise, and the whole house shook,” Mazzola said. “I walked back to the range, looked up, and [down came a] 12-foot-wide waterfall.
A large, overhanging tree limb had come crashing down on the roof, inviting the salt-tinged spray of Post-Tropical Cyclone Sandy directly into their kitchen.
Shortly thereafter, everybody else showed up.
From the Collingswood Fire Department to Mayor James Maley, local authorities who had been holed up in the makeshift Emergency Operations Center at the borough fire station were on the scene within minutes.
Mazzola said the firefighters scaled the roof, pulled out the tree limb, and threw a tarp over the gash. Then he, Bere, and Webber spent the better part of a few hours baling water out of the kitchen, catching it in roasting pans, and using a borrowed painter’s tarp to help divert some of the spillover into the sink.
Bere even sprained his arm slightly in the retrieval of a shop-vac to aid in the clean-up. Outside, he also discovered that a black locust tree in the backyard had been split vertically in the storm, leaving a gaping wound that seemed to breathe when the wind picked up.
Although the group was rattled by the intrusion, they commended the borough fire service for their courtesy and professionalism.
“They were leaving here apologizing that they couldn’t help us more,” Mazzola said.
'I don't know how many times I complained about that tree'
Less thrilled with the response of the borough was Bettlewood Avenue resident Allan Ross. For years, Ross says, he’s asked Collingswood officials to take down a black walnut tree in front of his home, only to be denied repeatedly.
Superstorm Sandy took care of it.
During a particularly windy onslaught Monday, the towering tree was ripped from its roots, tore up the sidewalk and fell onto Ross’ home. Miraculously, not a single window cracked and the roof wasn’t punctured.
“I don’t know how many times I complained about that tree. ‘Oh, you can’t cut it down,’” Ross said. “It was constantly leaning, but I was told, ‘You’re not allowed to cut it down, it’s a healthy tree.’
“The problem is, they get to an age and they should be taken down. There’s another one there,” Ross said, gesturing across the street.
Ross' home was one of about eight structures hit by full trees around Collingswood in the course of the storm. There was little structural damage throughout the borough; however, a borough building official said several cars fell victim to a tree vs. garage incident.
On his blog post updating the borough on conditions in Collingswood Tuesday morning, Maley wrote, “We were lucky, but there are problems.
“We did not have major flooding but we do have some major wind damage,” he wrote. “Besides the tree debris everywhere, there are major trees down and numerous wires down all through town.”
Those downed wires represent not only a potential danger for Collingswood, but also a signifier of the number of residences currently without power in the borough. Maley led a town-wide canvassing operation Tuesday that sought to identify anyone still in need of assistance.
“We checked on the status of all residents to ensure they were aware of availability of the Borough facilities and to ensure there were no specific medical needs,” Maley wrote in a post dated 8:45 p.m. Tuesday.
“PSEG has advised we may be a week before power is restored to all areas,” he wrote.
The public utility has also mentioned in other announcements that, throughout Camden County, some 30,000 residents may still be without power.