Arlington historic house damaged by fallen tree

Wet soil caused this massive tree to crash into the 100-year-old Fraber House in Arlington. Photo: Whitney Wild

Rain-soaked soil left unstable ground under many of the region’s mature trees.

“I grew up across the street,” says Patricia Goodman, an heir to Arlington’s Fraber House. “That’s my grandparents’ house.”

When a 12,000 pound tree slammed into Goodman’s family home, she could muster only a few words.

There was no way to predict a white oak would smash into the 100-year-old house, punching four holes in the roof and shattering a window. The home is now owned by Arlington County and Goodman says it was just days from earning historic designation, a way to preserve it for decades.

“I’m afraid that if the damage is sufficient it will be too expensive to repair and it will be torn down,” Goodman says.

Officials believe Monday’s heavy rains turned the soil underneath the tree to mud, leaving unstable ground among the roots.

“The tree uprooted, even though other trees around it are doing fine for whatever reason,” says Jamie Bartalon, the landscape and forestry supervisor for the Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation.

That unpredictability makes this year’s severe storms more dangerous. Even if there’s little wind, experts can’t see the soil shifting underground.

“There’s really no way to know for sure,” says Bartalon. “The best thing to do is to take preventative action.”

More storms are expected to roll in Wednesday night. Rain will soak the region Thursday, making trees swaying in the sunshine look more like omens of more damage to come.

A devastated Goodman says she’s overwhelmed.

“I’m feeling sorrow,” she says. “Ready to cry.”