by nathan oster
Bruce Lowe was relaxing on his couch Friday afternoon watching the final moments of the John Wayne classic, “The Searchers,” when a tree came crashing through the roof of his mobile home in the 200 block of Fourth Avenue South.
“Two to three inches” is how close he estimates the tree came to ending his life.
He was fortunate to come away with only a few scratches on his head.
“I didn’t think much about it at the time, but looking back on it now, heck yes, I was pretty scared … I’m no John Rambo,” quipped Lowe Monday afternoon as he and his wife Connie were checking out a different trailer on the north end of town that will soon be their home.
Connie made it a point to emphasize that she likes the fact there are no large trees on the lot.
After Friday afternoon’s storm, it would be hard to blame her.
She was at work at the Wyoming Retirement Center when she took a call from the Greybull Police Department. Her initial fear was that something had happened to her husband; when she discovered that he was fine, and that a tree had just fallen on her trailer, she was relieved.
But then she saw the damage that the tree had caused — and how it had essentially cut the trailer in two. Clay Collingwood, who owns the trailer along with his wife Heidi, called it a total loss. A second trailer on the lot next to it, also owned by the Collingwoods, escaped serious damage.
Like so many others, Lowe admitted that the storm snuck up on him.
The first sign of it, he said, was the loud crash of the tree crashing into his trailer, where he and Connie had lived for the past two years. Neighbors immediately rushed over to see if he was OK — and Lowe said he appreciated their concern.
“I had some other neighbors tell me they thought the wind gust reached 60 miles per hour or better,” he said.
Bruce and Connie are still sifting through the destruction to determine the full extent of their loss. They had two bookcases in the area of the trailer where the tree fell — one was OK, the other was driven into the ground by falling tree.
“And we’d just put mini-blinds on the windows, too,” said Bruce.
The Collingwoods have taken care of the Lowes since the storm, immediately putting them up in a local motel and taking meals to them. Said an appreciative Bruce: “They have to be ranked as the No. 1 people to rent from in this town.”
The windstorm also took the roof off of a building owned by Pab Good Trucking.
There is only one weather-monitoring station in Greybull and it’s at the South Big Horn County Airport. Data from the day of the storm — Friday, July 8 — shows a top wind gust of 44 mph, which was recorded at both 4:53 p.m. and 5:11 p.m.
Brett McDonald, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Riverton, said he was working Friday afternoon and did not receive reports of any damage that resulted from the storms that passed through the Big Horn Basin.
He did make a note of the wind direction data from the airport, noting that after initially coming in from the southwest, it shifted and began coming in from the northeast and east, which isn’t unusual in thunderstorms.
“That type of occurrence can cause stress on trees — when you get strong winds from the predominant direction, then get them from the opposite direction,” said McDonald. “Trees aren’t used to that — especially cottonwoods and poplars.”
McDonald said he suspects the south part of town was hit by wind speeds greater than 44 mph. “Even though there’s probably just a couple of miles between where the mobile home is located and the airport, you can get some pretty different wind speeds,” he said. “It might have been 40 to 50 mph at the airport, 50 to 60 mph on the south end of town.”