A lush canopy greets residents and visitors of Braden Oaks. But the large oaks and pines giving shade and scenic routes pose as an extra risk during inclement weather for those who live close by.
Between the Grays and the DeFants, they have hundreds of trees on their properties. Miraculously, as trees were knocked over by Hurricane Irma’s wind gusts, at least one had hit a power line but none hit their homes.
Ashley Gray helped her parents clean up branches in their yard, where dozens of 30-foot trees shoot up as if they were weeds.
“I thought (Irma) was going to be a lot worse, but luckily we didn’t get it as bad as I thought it was going to be,” she said.
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In her 34 years of living in the wooded development, she said this was the first big hurricane she remembers going through.
“Luckily, we were good,” she said.
“We only lost two big (trees) and they weren’t by the house,” Gray said.
Next to the brick walkway to the front door, a towering pine lay at a 45-degree angle away from the house. Holding it back from falling over completely are its roots entangled in the ground, with a few disturbed bricks nearby.
Neighbor Donna DeFant stayed with friends in east Manatee County to ride out the storm, as her husband Peter was in Michigan.
“They had power all night,” she said. “It was delightful.”
But the morning after wasn’t as easy.
“We came back here this morning to see what damage I might have from the trees and we couldn’t get up the driveway,” DeFant said.
Five oak trees had collapsed in their driveway. Another had fallen on the RV carport, but the vehicle was up in Michigan at the time.
“It took us about an hour to cut our way through,” she said.
Friend Bob Stanley was still slicing through limbs with a chainsaw after the path was cleared.
DeFant doesn’t know long it will take to get the property back in shape.
“We’ll get through it somehow,” she said.