Dorothy Brindle had just finished playing the tile game Rummikub with her friend around 10 p.m., Monday when all of a sudden, she heard a thunderous noise in front of her three-bedroom home on Sunset Drive in Lake Worth.
“It sounded like 10 car crashes,” Brindle said. “It was that loud.”
But when Brindle, 80, rushed outside, there weren’t any wrecked cars in front of the home she’s owned for 36 years and where she lives with her cat, Chloe, a 14-year-old black and white short-hair.
What the widowed Brindle saw looked like a scene from “Jurassic Park,” as massive tree branches were strewn all over her front lawn, branches that once belonged to the towering royal poinciana that has stood in front of Brindle’s home for decades.
Not anymore. It looked as if a T-Rex stomped through Brindle’s yard, leaving the mighty royal poinciana — at least 50 feet tall — in its wake like a bunch of wooden Pick Up Sticks in that old-school children’s game.
“It was such a still night and there was no wind,” Brindle said. “It was just the tree’s time.”
Mark Sykes lives across the street from Brindle and was sleeping when the tree uprooted.
“It was so sad,” said Sykes, who said he has lived on Sunset Drive off and on for 37 years. “I grew up with that tree. When it fell, there was a lot of cracking. It sounded like a tree screaming.”
Brindle, a former ballroom dance instructor, said she was stunned, but, in a sense, wasn’t.
Last year she had an arborist check out the aging tree. He told her it wasn’t in good shape. He also told Brindle the tree was the tallest royal poinciana he’s ever seen in Lake Worth.
“Everybody loved that tree,” Brindle said.
Luckily the tree didn’t cause any damage or hit Brindle’s home. No one was hurt and there was no property damage. There’s a telephone pole on the corner, but, like a good neighbor, the tree missed that as well.
“I was very fortunate,” Brindle said. “I was just glad it didn’t happen during a hurricane, because the tree could have twisted and hit my house.”
Now comes the hard part — the cleanup.
Because the tree fell on Brindle’s property, she’s responsible for removing it. She’s asked her son, Tom, one of four kids she had with her late husband, David, to help.
The plan is for them to pick up some of the smaller branches, leaving the heavy-lifting to the experts. Brindle hasn’t started calling for estimates, but she plans to do that soon.
One neighbor, who jogged by Brindle’s home, stopped to assess the damage, shaking his head. That gave Brindle an idea.
“You’re welcome to take a piece home with you,” she said, laughing. “A really big piece. I’m handing out souvenirs.”
Not surprisingly, the jogger declined, quickly disappearing into the unforgiving heat.
In all seriousness, Brindle’s not sure how she’s going to pay for the work since she’s on a fixed income.
She sighs, then smiles a sly smile, while looking at the tree that once housed a swing where her husband, a former New Jersey police officer, and Brindle, used to sit and talk like the sweethearts they were for 42 years of marriage.
“If I don’t eat for a while, I’ll be fine paying for it,” Brindle said.
Royal poinciana tree
- Bursts into bloom in April and May.
- Life span is about 40 years, at 30 years the tree is in decline and more susceptible to diseases, pathogens and termites.
- According to University of Florida, a pruned tree will have a 26 percent better chance of surviving strong winds.