Neighbors mourn 87-year-old companion toppled by Harvey

Amber Aldaco By Amber Aldaco

Oct. 14, 2017 at 9:42 p.m.
Updated Oct. 15, 2017 at 6 a.m.

Cindy Brewer climbs  an 87-year-old pecan tree that was toppled during Hurricane Harvey.

Cindy Brewer climbs an 87-year-old pecan tree that was toppled during Hurricane Harvey.   Angela Piazza for The Victoria Advocate

Reyna Ellerbe will miss the shade the large pecan tree once provided for her backyard. The 23-year-old and her husband, Evan, enjoy spending time in the backyard of their North Liberty residence. But now the backyard will look slightly different.

"The tree was so big that it provided shade for pretty much the entire backyard," Ellerbe said. "It's all sun now."

Hurricane Harvey's average 100 mph winds downed hundreds of trees and branches when the storm made landfall in Texas seven weeks ago. Though household and natural debris is expected with a hurricane, one would expect larger and sturdier trees to survive the storm.

Several North Liberty residents were shocked, though, when they discovered an 87-year-old, 70-foot pecan tree did not survive Harvey.

Adella Mullino, who lives on the property next door to the Ellerbes, said her late husband, Joseph L. Mullino, planted the tree when he was about 7 years old in 1930.

"I couldn't believe that it fell - it's such a big tree," Mullino said.

Cindy and Greg Brewer, who rent the property to the Ellerbes, were both surprised to see the old tree was no longer standing after the storm.

"It was a big, noble tree, and the hurricane got it," Cindy Brewer said. "It was a little sad to see something like that."

The Ellerbes had evacuated to New Braunfels to avoid Harvey, but the Brewers stayed in Victoria. Greg Brewer, also an AEP lineman, said he found out about the tree when he was driving down Main Street on his way to work a couple days after the storm. The tree had fallen across two chain-link fences and landed on the railroad tracks that run parallel to Main Street.

"Oh boy, that's a big one," he recalled thinking when he saw the tree.

Cindy Brewer called the railroad company to advise them about the tree on the tracks, and someone went to the tree and cut the branches that lay on the track.

But the majority of the tree remains on the property. The trunk's circumference measures more than 11 feet, Brewer said. Several of its branches measured about 3 feet in diameter.

A tree-trimming company was initially hired a few weeks ago to remove it, but the company had to turn down the job after realizing the tree was too big and workers didn't have the suitable equipment.

"Many of the bigger branches are big enough to be trees on their own," Brewer said.

Removing of the tree will require 60-inch chainsaws, a backhoe and a front-end loader to haul it off, Brewer said. Fortunately, the Brewers have found a company that will be able to remove the tree. The work is expected to start this week. The wood will be milled into lumber, Brewer said.

Though the pecan tree never really produced many pecans, the tree provided the Ellerbes with much-needed shade. The large tree falling away from the house, though, was a blessing, Reyna Ellerbe said.

"We're definitely going to miss the tree and the shade. We've missed the shade since it's been down," Ellerbe said. "We're just glad it didn't fall on the house."



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