Francesco Manni feared for his and his wife’s lives on Friday when, just after 9am, he heard a loud crack and turned to their home office window to see an enormous tree falling towards it. “I just had time to alert my wife, she was sitting close to me and she started shouting,” he said.
They were among thousands of people across the UK impacted by the devastation caused by the deadly Storm Eunice.
Thankfully, the tree was so tall that instead of coming through their window, it landed on the roof of their West Reading home, saving them from its impact.
But after calling the fire brigade, who rescued Manni, 39, and Jade Dawber, 33, and found the house structurally sound, they woke on Saturday morning to a destroyed garden, cracks in the walls and a damaged roof and gutter. To go outside they had to wear helmets to protect them from falling tiles.
“We’ve been really lucky. Basically, if the tree was slightly smaller, by probably a few metres, instead of banging on the top of the house, it would have smashed exactly on the sidewall and inside the window,” said Manni, who works in IT.
He hopes that the cost of repairs will be covered by insurance, but following the traumatic experience, he said it was a struggle to sleep because he kept thinking of what had happened. “I saw the whole scene, from the crack to the tree falling towards the house.”
He estimates that the tree, which he understands is protected by Reading council and is in his neighbour’s garden, is about 50ft tall and visible from as far as two miles away.
On Saturday, as tiles were falling from the roof, he said he “still couldn’t believe it”. “Seeing this massive tree lying in our garden, to be honest we are grateful,” he added. “We are grateful that it could have gone much worse and it didn’t.”
In Binfield, Bracknell, Steve Moody told how his and his wife’s cars and garage roof were destroyed when a pine tree, which he estimates was about 20 metres tall, crashed on it.
Moody, 71, said: “Both cars are undrivable because they’ve had half the roof fall on top of them. They’ve got broken windows, broken roofs, broken lights. Pretty much anything would break if you dropped a load of clay tiles on it.”
They have put in insurance claims but in the meantime will be reliant on buses and walking to get around.
He said he was relieved that no trees fell on the house, which he said would have been a disaster, but that it still felt like a “catastrophe”. He added: “It’s a big deal. We’ve been in there this morning when the winds have died down, so there’s a lot to do. I don’t even know how they’d get the tree out of the roof of the building.”
In the 30 years that they have lived there, it was the worst storm they have seen. “It’s 35 years really since anything like this happened here,” he said.
In Mullion, Cornwall, Ross Hocking said his business, Poldhu Beach Cafe, took a “beating” during the storm, which blew off most of their front roof.
The 36-year-old was forced to close because it was too dangerous and the beach and cafe was covered in seafoam so thick it looked like snow.
“I was here for maybe 10 minutes max because it was just too dangerous and too wild. You couldn’t stand up,” he said. “I went to just take a photo for our Instagram and it literally took me straight off my feet and blew me over so we called it a day and went home.”
After getting in at 7am to clean up, they reopened on Saturday but won’t be able to repair the roof until after the winds have died down.
Around the area, he said there were lots of power cuts, missing roofs and fallen down fences and that lots of homes were still without power on Saturday morning.
“I’ve had the cafe for 22 years and I’ve never experienced gusts with such power.”
In Essex, part of a home was destroyed and car crushed by a 400-year-old oak tree that came through the roof of the family’s house.
Dominic Good, 57, was on a work call at home in Stondon Massey, near Brentwood, on Friday morning when he was shocked by an “almighty crash”.
The father-of-two said his family are “very lucky” that nobody was injured but that his children’s bedrooms are now filled with rubble and the house covered in dust.
“The whole tree fell on the north-west corner of the house and the roof took the brunt of it,” he told the PA news agency. “The roof is pretty much destroyed, and my son’s and my daughter’s bedrooms are completely filled with rubble.”
His son, Sven, who was in the room directly below where the tree hit, had his Mazda MX5 “completely crushed” by the tree’s branches. “He just grabbed his laptop and grabbed the dog and ran out of the room,” Good said.
Once the tree is removed from the house, he said they will probably have to knock down a significant portion and rebuild it.