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A 'wicked' wind

A 130-foot pine tree crushed a house, a shed and a mobile home Sunday afternoon at the Whispering Pines RV Park in Rogue River as a vicious wind storm rampaged throughout Jackson County.

"The sky was falling," said Dawn Maus-Johnson as she described how the roof collapsed onto the bed and the windows exploded as the tree sliced open her mobile home. "We were headed to the truck, but stuff was blowing everywhere."

Her neighbors, Maxine and Roy Wheeler, were briefly trapped inside their house, forced to climb out a back window with the help of neighbors.

"We barely made it out of there," said Roy, who had minor cuts and bruises. "It just came crashing on us."

High winds and rain started just before 3 p.m. Sunday as trees fell helter-skelter onto power lines, homes and roadways from Rogue River to Medford.

A Cypress tree uprooted onto a house at 523 Jeannette Ave. at about 3:30 p.m. in Medford. Fire officials warned the occupants not to enter the house.

Brian Fish, Medford fire battalion chief, said five or six trees fell in Medford, knocking out power, phone and TV lines.

"We didn't have any injuries," he said.

Chris Arnold, Jacksonville administrative fire chief, said pine trees began falling from one end of town to the other.

"They were all very large trees," he said. "They pulled the entire root system out."

A tree fell onto the roof at 870 Hill Street, and Jacksonville fire crews threw tarps over the house to keep the rain out.

At 1230 Westmont Drive, a tree took out the power lines and another tree crashed into the back of the house, damaging the roof.

Another tree fell near the old Cascade Christian School site in Jacksonville.

Fire District No. 3 officials reported trees down on Agate Road in White City.

Dozens of trees fell in the Applegate, knocking down power lines and blocking Highway 238 and other roadways. Fire District No. 9 crews cleared Highway 238, but other roadways remained blocked by Sunday night.

Oregon Department of Transportation removed toppled trees that had blocked Highway 99 south of Rogue River, which remained closed into Sunday evening.

Traffic was detoured on Highway 199 near Cave Junction, but ODOT expected it to reopen later Sunday night.

Traffic on West Evans Creek was temporarily blocked when a tree dropped into the roadway.

Rogue River firefighter Dan Hunt said 23 calls came in for various power lines knocked down and other problems during a two-hour period.

The Whispering Pines took the brunt of the storm, he said, but residents suffered only minor cuts and abrasions.

"They got very lucky," Hunt said.

A second tree at the Whispering Pines blew over, pinning Jean LeClair's pickup underneath.

"It's totalled," the 62-year-old said, looking grimly at the devastation.

Kelly Unger, a 49-year-old visiting the RV park from Palmdale, Calif., said neighbors frantically tried to get the Wheelers out of their house after the tree jammed the front door.

"You could just hear her screaming at the front door," Unger said of Maxine Wheeler, an elderly woman who was too dazed to speak after escaping with her life. "That nobody died or went to the hospital is a miracle."

Unger said the storm seemed to come out of nowhere, concentrating much of its force on the RV park.

"All of a sudden the rain just picked up and the wind and everything came down," she said. "It's amazing how fast and wicked this thing hit us."

Many of the residents planned to stay at relatives or at the Best Western just down the street from the RV park. However, electrical power was out in Rogue River and at the hotel.

The National Weather Service reported gusts of 30 to 40 mph throughout the valley Sunday. In Rogue River, a 44 mph gust was clocked around 3 p.m.

The valley received from a quarter to a half-inch rain over the 24-hour period ending at 8 p.m.

No more high winds are expected today after the storm blew through, according to the weather service.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or e-mail dmann@mailtribune.com.

A pine tree fell on top of a home at Whispering Pines RV Park Sunday in Rogue River. No major injuries or fatalities were reported. - Julia Moore