The latest ‘Tiny House’ fad is to build a tree house that is cute. This is being used for vacation homes and all around adventurous living. Today the New York Times featured this young man who is funding his new tree house complex via a sporting goods manufacturer and he boasts about how wonderful his life is living high in some pine trees which are physically rather weak and prone to breaking off during storms, uprooting during floods and burning in vast forest fires out West.
Mr. Siegel and Mr. Korsmo planned to do more work on the outdoor shower, but because Mr. Huntington wanted to film them, they were waiting. They would work in perfect light.
Meanwhile, Mr. Huntington ascended into the trees. At the top of an increasingly steep staircase was a platform made of red cedar. Opening the door of the Studio, Mr. Huntington noted that both treehouses have wood stoves, allowing him to stay hunkered in, even during the Pacific Northwest’s cold, stormy nights.
Oh, great, a wood stove in each section! With the dry needle branches just above his dwellings. The sparks from the chimney will have a great time of it. Hope he doesn’t burn down all that forest he is camping in. The pictures show he has built one platform around two trees so if they don’t move in unison they will tear the thing apart. And his bedroom is connected by a very open walkway which would sway in high winds trapping him up in his tree house.
But as a person who has been hit three times directly by lightning bolts, the most obvious danger is exactly that: Second man dies from weekend lightning strike of tree house.
Are Treehouses Safe in Thunderstorms? | Can We stay in Treehouses during Thunderstorms? The answer is very obvious to me: NO WAY.
Storm risk to Trees
Most trees and branches fail during storms, due to high wind, drenching rain, and/or lightning. When lightning hits trees, they can explode, which could damage your hearing, cause you to be struck by flying debris, or expose you to the current of the lightning strike. None of these are good and a situation gets dangerous so quickly that you may not have time to escape the danger.
Building in a region while ignoring historical storms is highly dangerous and people do this all the time. They build where hurricanes happen, they build on sand dunes that move restlessly as the oceans shove them all over kingdom come, people build on flood plains, where tornadoes terrorize, where forest fires rage regularly (mainly out West where it is alternately wet and then very dry), etc. Building in dangerous places is common. But tree houses like beach houses really push the envelope.
The windstorm of October 12, 1962, caused more destruction in the Pacific Northwest than any other windstorm in recorded history. In Oregon and Washing- ton, 31 persons were killed, ana property damage was estimated conservatively at $225 million to $260 million. Numerous accounts 12, 4, 7, 9, 14, 17, 18, 191 describe events during the storm, details of destruction, and maxi- mum winds; a few include a brief synoptic description. The blowdown of timber in western Oregon and western Washington amounted to more than 11 billion bd. ft., approximately equal to the annual cut in the two States. Nearly 98 percent of the blowdown was on the west side of the Cascade Range . Wind damage to forests is a serious problem in this area where the forest industry is foremost in the economy. In addition to the immediate destruction of timber, there are associated longer term problems of increased fire danger and bark beetle epi- demics [l,5, 151.
Violent windstorm rakes Western Washington on October 21, 1934.
On Sunday, October 21, 1934, a windstorm with gusts of at least 90 m.p.h. strikes Western Washington. Damage is widespread from the Columbia River to the Canadian border. At least 19 people (some unverified accounts claim 22) die in the storm. It’s Western Washington’s worst windstorm on record to that time, though it will be bumped to second place by the 1962 Columbus Day windstorm.
Out of Thin Air
Western Washington’s weather had been unsettled on Saturday, October 20, 1934, but forecasts issued that evening called only for “fresh southerly winds” in Seattle the next day (“Beacon Hill …”), although strong winds were predicted for the coast. However, plunging barometers that night alerted weather forecasters that a big one was on the way, and as dawn broke on Sunday, October 21, gale warnings were going up not just on the coast but on inland waters too, including Puget Sound.
These tree houses will not survive this sort of storm. The trees this guy is building on are all post-1962. He is playing Russian Roulette. If he doesn’t keep a close eye on the weather, he can be in serious doom very suddenly. When we lived on Kitt Peak, for example, we had this full sized weather station with a wind gage that was made of steel and was four feet long on a pole and was shaped like a military jet.
During a very violent storm as a dying hurricane caused winds in excess of 100 mph, the wind gage jet was twisted like a pretzel and we lost track of the wind speed. The noise inside the 84″ telescope dome was deafening. The trailer we slept in was swept from the mountaintop. My house in the mountains is sheltered from the worst winds from the northwest and southeast but not from due south which is where one dying hurricane, Wilma, came roaring up and we had 100 mph winds here. My house is very, very solid and sunk into the mountainside.
While that storm roared, the crashing sound of trees going down was quite obvious some of which were more than 300 years old. And these were all oaks, not weak pines. The pine trees exposed to this wind fell over like ten pins. Not where I would build a tree house. Furthermore, the tree houses would amplify the sway effect of the tree’s tops cutting it off from the base so the tree would most likely snap in the middle which is where the tree house is. Ouch.
NOT a place to live in full time. I am irritated that the NYT reporter made zero mention of all this, instead, praised this lunatic house design as clever and something to emulate.
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