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Tree crushes car, part of woman's house in Ashland

ASHLAND — At about 3 a.m. Friday, a falling tree shook Debra Neisewander's house hard enough to rain plaster down on her bed.

"It was just too fast," Neisewander said from her rain-sopped front yard in the 1100 block of Tolman Creek Road late Friday morning. "The house shook a little bit. It happened real quick. It came right through my bedroom."

The culprit was a Ponderosa pine — estimated to be about 75 feet tall by Ashland Fire & Rescue officials — that succumbed during the wind- and rain-rattled night. It yanked down utility cables, smashed Neisewander's Chevy Tahoe and damaged parts of her roof and a nearby Volkswagen bus she also owns.

Neisewander was unhurt, but the tree blocked her driveway. Gripping a handsaw, Neisewander spent Friday morning cutting through small branches and piling them, bit by bit. She had to cut several branches out of the way near her front door, but she eventually opted to exit the residence through the back.

"I've been concerned about this tree for a while," Neisewander said. "I actually had a dream about it a while back — about that tree falling."

She does not know what her next steps are, or how long it will take for the tree to be removed. Additional smaller trees fell near her backyard.

Neighbor Scott Balcomb said he had gone outside to help clear some debris in front of his own driveway when he saw the more severe destruction nearby.

"It was like, 'Oh, my god,'" Balcomb said.

The storm that blew in Thursday night closed the lower stretch of Highway 66 to motorists between mileposts 1 and 14 for close to three hours as Emigrant Creek surged onto the roadway near milepost 1. A mudslide smothered both travel lanes near milepost 14, according to John Vial, Jackson County Roads & Parks director. The road reopened at about 3:30 p.m., the Oregon Department of Transportation reported. 

Tyler Creek Road was also closed after a clogged culvert washed out part of the road near milepost 3.

Three inches of rain fell in parts of Ashland Thursday and Friday, the National Weather Service said. Buckhorn Springs saw more than 3 inches, and Squaw Peak saw more than 4.5.

Wind gusts also hit the region hard, with 124 mph gusts reported on Squaw Peak and 55 mph gusts in Ashland. The wind downed numerous trees across southern Jackson County, including Hyatt Prairie Road between Highway 66 and Dead Indian Memorial Road.

Pacific Power reported 652 customers were without power in Jackson County Friday evening, down from 1,465 that morning. They included residents in neighborhoods outside Ashland, including the Oak Knoll area and along Highway 66, and Prospect.

About 200,000 gallons of untreated and partially treated wastewater were released at a couple of locations into Ashland Creek because of the heavy rainfall, the city of Ashland said in a news release.

"This extremely heavy rain caused the amount of wastewater entering the wastewater treatment plant to exceed its capacity," the release said. The wastewater treatment plant has a capacity of 8.8 million gallons per day, and Friday the plant was receiving wastewater at a rate in excess of 10 million gallons.

Ashland officials advised people in the area of Ashland Creek to avoid contact with the water.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.

A fallen tree crushed Debra Neisewander's SUV and shook her house about 3 a.m Friday in the 1100 block Tolman Creek Road in Ashland. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell