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Sandy's Winds Knock Tree Onto House

No injuries in Lake Hiawatha incident.

Hurricane Sandy achieved one of its first Parsippany casualties Monday afternoon when the top portion of a tree fell onto a home on Flemington Road in Lake Parsippany.

At about 2 p.m., a tall tree was snapped in half by the storm's strong gusts. The roughly 10-feet-long top half of the tree fell on top of the house, penetrating the roof and tearing a hole into the building's dining room ceiling.

A neighbor who didn't wish to be identified said he witnessed the incident. 

"The wind storm took the tree over in one shot," he said. "It blew half of the tree onto the house."

Lawrence and Nicole Raniere were at home when the tree fell.

"I was in the living room," said Lawrence Raniere, as his wife swept up bits of plaster from the damaged ceiling. "There was a big sound before [the tree] hit the house. You could see the trunk cracked in half."

"I was just in the kitchen and heard this sound and started running," said Nicole Raniere.

The oak blown into the house was the property of the Raniere's next-door neighbor.

Lawrence Raniere said Parsippany Police Officer Anthony Morelli and township representatives appeared shortly after the incident to survey the scene.

He said that the men told him the Parsippany Shade Tree Commission would not cut down the tree.

"I guess that if it was an emergency, they would think about cutting it," he said. "The impression I got is since there's no emergency, and it's raining, and it's private property, they won't cut it.

"The tree's on the neighbor's property. It's not a city tree."

Raniere said he and his neighbor, whose property includes a number of the tall trees, have discussed cutting the trees over the years.

"He was actually trying to get some of these trees trimmed recently, but [the contractor] kept delaying and didn't come," Raniere said. 

Asked whether the family would seek shelter elsewhere, he said no final decision had been made.

"I really don't see any legitimate option to not staying here other than driving 300 miles to get away from the storm," said Raniere. "Other than that, I don't see how we could leave. Who knows how long this is going to be? It could be days."

Noting that Sandy's worst has yet to arrive, he noted that the tree that fell onto his house might not be the last to do so.

"We may have more trees [fall]," he said. "You see all the trees our neighbor has. Plus, the neighbor in the back has trees. What if another one or two trees fall down? I would want to be here to at least try to salvage the house."

The Ranieres have owned the Lake Parsippany house since 1996. 

"We've slowly fixed the house up since we got here," he said.

Raniere pointed to a back room of the house, one in the farthest corner of the house, which is away from any trees surrounding the home.

"We could bundle in there tonight," he said.

His primary concern is damage to the house. No water has come through the hole in the ceiling, so repairing it may require a cosmetic fix. But the damage could be worse than it appears.

"I'm assuming the tree penetrated the roof and then popped a hole in the ceiling," said Raniere. "I'm thinking water could be coming in at an angle so maybe it's dripping down the roof and coming down [inside] the wall, so there might be other damage."

With Sandy in progress, he surmised that any search for damage would have to wait until after the storm's conclusion. At present, the hurricane's winds are causing trees throughout Lake Parsippany's foliage-lined streets to shake, and forecasters say the worst is yet to come.

"Then we have to go through the insurance company and then get quotes," he said. "I remember last year after Irene, tree removal services were really exorbitant; I don't know if it was price gouging."

He said the cost for removing a tree used to run about $1,000. Now, he estimates the price is two or three times that.

"Better to deal with insurance to get it done," he said. "The quotes my neighbor's got to cut down trees have been [really high]."

The neighbor was not available to speak with Patch.

Officer Morelli and the town's Shade Tree Commission could not be reached for comment.

But the Ranieres don't seem eager to place blame for their misadventure on anyone or anything but Sandy.

"It's not anybody's fault. It's just the way it goes."

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