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Tuesday night's winds hit hard for farms in Cambridge's Pleasant Valley

A photo of a person walking past the back of a truck with large logs on the bed, and behind the truck is a white farmhouse with a giant tree laying on the roof.
Elodie Reed
Vermont Public
Jed Ruhl, pictured, and Dennis Beloin, not pictured, help their neighbors at the Hutchins farm in Cambridge's Pleasant Valley after Tuesday night's storm knocked over two trees, including one on top of the farmhouse.

On Wednesday morning, Frank Hutchins sat in his pickup truck behind a white house on Upper Pleasant Valley Road in Cambridge. He was on the phone, trying to get someone out there with a crane.

"OK this is Frank Hutchins out in Cambridge, Pleasant Valley. We got hit hard by the windstorm last night — I've got a big locust tree on top of the farmhouse," he told one tree removal service.

Wind gusts as fast as 70 to 90 miles per hour were reported in some parts of Vermont Tuesday night. And Hutchins is familiar with high-speed winds: at 75 years old, he’s seen some weather at the Hutchins Farm.

"Our old dairy barn that stands right there where that red tool shed is, the north end of the barn blew out twice: Once in 1953, and then in March 1959," Hutchins said. And then: "Dec. 1, 2010... that almost took this barn here off the foundation."

A photo of three people, two standing outside and one sitting in a truck, looking somewhere out of frame. A red building is in the background.
Elodie Reed
Vermont Public
Frank Hutchins, left, his sister Kathy and their nephew Frank stand outside the Hutchins farm after two trees uprooted and one fell on the house early Wednesday morning.

Hutchins grew up on this farm, but it’s his nephew, also named Frank, who lives in the farmhouse now. Nephew Frank says it was a little after 2 a.m. Wednesday when he heard the tree come through the kitchen window.

"It just sounded like a golf club going through the window, breaking the glass and continuing as the tree shaking and just knocking it everywhere around," he said. "I basically took a tarp at that point, glass was all through the house, and I basically stapled put some screws in it for the window to try to roll the rain out. And stayed with it till about 5 o'clock, 'cause there was nothing else you could do, and you just wondered which other trees were going to come down."

Another tree did come down, both of them completely uprooted from the soggy ground.

A close-up of photo of broken tree limbs and moss.
Elodie Reed
Vermont Public
With soggy soil unable to hold their roots, two black locust trees uprooted in the yard of the Hutchins farm along Upper Pleasant Valley Road in Cambridge.

Fortunately, everyone inside the farmhouse was OK — Frank, his wife, their two kids and two dogs and two cats. While Frank kept watch over the window, his family stayed upstairs on the west side of the house, across from where the southeasterly wind walloped the valley.

The Hutchinses heard that around the same time the tree fell on the farmhouse, a neighbor brought his family down into the basement to keep them safe.

"But for Pleasant Valley, it's nothing new," the younger Frank Hutchins said. "I always figured when the wind came from the east, it had a different nickname. And that was 'disaster alley.'" 

In this “disaster alley,” the Hutchins farm was one of several properties that sustained serious damage Tuesday night. In either direction along Upper Pleasant Valley Road, an old barn collapsed, tree limbs blocked lanes of traffic and a free-standing solar panel leaned, crooked, toward the ground.

A photo of a large tree on top of a white farmhouse.
Elodie Reed
Vermont Public
The Hutchins farm is no stranger to strong winds and uprooted trees. Family members say this has happened in the past, and will happen again.

Where destruction goes, though, neighbors follow. Local logger Dennis Beloin, 77, and his neighbor Jed Ruhl turned up at the Hutchins' house, chainsaws in hand, shortly after the trees fell. And Frank Hutchins’ uncle Frank and aunt Kathy also showed up to help.

The young Frank Hutchins said that you hope things like this don’t happen, but you also aren’t surprised when they do.

"It's not the first one, and it won't be the last of these coming through here," he said.

Indeed, another storm with strong winds is predicted to blow through this weekend.

Read more coverage of this week's storm on our liveblog.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message.

Elodie is a reporter and producer for Vermont Public. She previously worked as a multimedia journalist at the Concord Monitor, the St. Albans Messenger and the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript, and she's freelanced for The Atlantic, the Christian Science Monitor, the Berkshire Eagle and the Bennington Banner. In 2019, she earned her MFA in creative nonfiction writing from Southern New Hampshire University.
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