COLUMBIA — Jessica Kohler, whose first child, — a girl, Kaitlan — is due Sept. 1, spent Saturday in her front yard in heavy duty work gloves and blue jeans, picking up the wreckage left by Monday night's storm.
Family and friends helped her clean the yard of her 66-year-old house. The brick, two-story house at 1006 W. Rollins Road was spared major damage in the storm, but the yard was covered with debris from about eight fallen trees, most of which were more than 30 feet tall by Kohler's estimates. Countless branches were annihilated by strong winds that included gusts of 58 mph, according to the National Weather Service. Some of the trees crashed through her neighbor's fence — a fallen 60 foot Ash tree left a hole about 20 feet in diameter in their backyard.
To see more storm damage in the area, look through three 360-degree panoramic images, including one of the Kohlers' yard.
The cost of clearing the trees was verbally estimated at $22,000 by Nelson's Tree Service LLC, and the couple's insurance company won't pay for any of the damage.
So the Kohlers turned to friends and co-workers for help. A crew gathered at 8 a.m. Saturday planning to clear as much of the debris as they could in order to cut down on the cost to the family. Thirty people were expected to show up throughout the day, Kohler said.
The majority of the cleanup crew wore smiles as the roar of chainsaws muted conversation and the smell of freshly cut timber filled the air. Most of them knew each other through their gym, CrossFit Fringe, where Kohler is a coach.
"At the end of the day, what we have here is a catastrophic event," said Kohler's husband, Neil Kohler. "And (the insurance company) won't give us a cent."
The storm devastated most of the neighborhood, Jessica Kohler said. Besides the physical damage to their property, she said the storm took its toll on the couple emotionally.
"You have a picture in mind that you want to bring a child home to, this home you've nested," she said. "And this changes all of that."
Looking around the damaged property, one of the couple's friends, Eric Franks, said the scene was "not normal for Columbia." Another volunteer, Matt Brooks, said it was "unreal."
"I'm sure it's depressing for a lot of folks because they moved to this part for the mature trees and such," Brooks said.
The group plans to work until they can't do anymore, said Ben Frissell, one of the gym's trainers and owners.
"We've got enough people here, we can use a little manpower and get as much done as we can," Frissell said.
Over the four years the couple has lived in their home, Jessica Kohler always felt having large trees in the yard was a luxury. She said she didn't have that luxury growing up in Minnesota.
"Having a house with plenty of trees in the front yard to put a hammock up was really appealing to me," she said. "Now, it's going to be a while before I get my hammock up."
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