Fauss sisters Emily, 11, (left) and Keira, 8, embrace, holding each other tightly. Last week their home in Boulder Creek was damaged by a fallen tree due to the storms, and now the family is trying to find a permanent place to live while repairs are made. (Drew Penner/Press Banner)

Michele Fauss was sitting in twilight on the deck of the Boulder Creek home serving as a temporary refuge for her family after a fallen tree took their Shady Lane house out of commission, when the phone rang.

You could hear the relief in her voice at finally getting a chance to set an appointment with the Travis Tree Professionals rep on the other end of the line.

“I was wondering if someone could come out and take a peek at my house,” she said. “It’s a big ol’ mess back there.”

The past week has been a blur for Fauss, 48, her husband and their three daughters, as they pick up the pieces after the latest storm upended their lives—literally. She’s just thankful no one was injured.

Michele Fauss sits on the deck of the Boulder Creek home serving as a temporary refuge for her family. (Drew Penner/Press Banner)

On March 21, they’d exited the premises about five minutes before a Douglas fir had its way with their house, smashing through to take out—among other things—the office where her husband had been working-from-home.

The couple had decided to leave early to pick up two of their daughters from the San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District campus, where a drama practice was underway. But they didn’t make it far.

“Everything was blocked. There was no way out,” she said. “It was scary. I hated it. Because the kids were stuck all the way in Felton, and we couldn’t get to them.”

They turned around to go back home, but couldn’t even do that, because of another fallen tree. Bear Creek Road and Highway 9 north of Boulder Creek were closed too.

After tapping into the internet in town for a bit, they decided to hoof it back to their residence. On their way they saw a couple trees down on one property.

“That doesn’t look good,” Fauss thought. Other houses appeared to have escaped the brunt of the so-called “bomb cyclone” that was pillaging Santa Cruz County.

Then they arrived at their own doorstep.

“When I walked in the house it was like pouring rain; when the tree hit, it popped off all of the skylights,” she said. “I walked into my bedroom and it was gone. The tree had hit directly on the master bedroom and it was totally destroyed.”

A fallen tree damages the home of the Fauss family in Boulder Creek. (Contributed)

Fauss admits she totally freaked out.

“It was just major panic,” she said, adding she was half-crying half-screaming. “I was like, ‘I have to find my cats.’”

Sadly, while they located their domestic long-hair Ricky, their beloved calico, Lucy, was nowhere to be found.

“The main thing is we lost a lot of stuff and we lost our home,” she said. “But everyone’s more concerned about the cat.”

Their 11-year-old daughter Emily recalled how when her parents couldn’t make it down the hill, a bunch of schoolmates headed to the Felton Branch Library. After that, they went to Taqueria Vallarta.

It was around 8pm when her parents were finally able to scoop her and her two sisters up in Scotts Valley from Target, where they’d been killing time. The family decided a hotel night in Santa Cruz was in order.

Emily explained that was really fun, since she got to share a room with her best friend Lizzy. But it wasn’t all fun and games.

“Hearing that my cat wasn’t found, I was really emotional about that,” she said. “But having my friend with me, it helped me a lot to not think about the scary stuff. I basically tried not thinking about it. And when I did, I just had a lot of bad thoughts in my head about what the house looked like.”

Inside the Fauss home, showing the work-from-home space their dad was using that very day. (Contributed)

The next day Emily saw pictures of their home, but she couldn’t see much detail. So, it wasn’t so bad. Plus, she got to have a playdate with Lizzy all day.

But that night, at a house a nearby neighbor said their family could stay in temporarily, Emily was alone and worrying about the future.

“We were back in our neighborhood,” she said, explaining she was sad and upset. “It’s hard at night when you’re trying to go to bed, because all those thoughts get stuck in your head.”

The next day, after attending her Quail Hollow Integrated Arts classes, she had Lizzy over to hang out.

She figured she better go to check out the house while she had her friend with her for moral support.

“When you look at the front of the house you just didn’t see anything,” she said. “It just looked fine.”

Continuing down into the backyard, it was a different story entirely.

“We just saw the tree hit the whole back of our house,” she said, recalling her reaction, “‘Oh my gosh. This is crazy.’”

She looked over the devastation in her parents’ room. Then she headed to hers.

“Everything was destroyed except for my bed,” she said. “I had just recently moved into that room and set it up and everything. So, I was pretty bummed.”

Just the day before, Emily and her friends had been hanging out there.

“It just felt really scary and disappointing,” she said. “And not being able to find our cat that we love so much made me really very, very upset. But I was happy that we could at least find one of our cats.”

As of Monday night, Emily’s younger sister Keira, 8, still hadn’t visited—or even looked at pictures of—the house.

“I’m just too scared,” she said.

Matt Fauss sets up a temporary work station. His work-from-home space was destroyed during the recent storms. (Drew Penner/Press Banner)

The dad, Matt, 54, says a Federal Emergency Management Agency representative came by to assess the damage, even though there wasn’t a disaster declaration in place from President Joe Biden. And Community Bridges delivered tote bins they could use to keep their stuff safe from the elements, he said.

As bad as they have it, they can’t help but reflect on the situations faced by other community members—such as the child who was asleep when a tree crashed through the house and landed nearby, or the guy who got up from bed just moments before a one smashed into it.

“It just pierced right through the bed,” Michele said. “I keep hearing these kinds of stories where it’s just super close calls.”

On Tuesday, Travis Tree came and sliced up the homewrecker. The next step is to get an insurance adjuster to swing by. They were going to get a construction contractor in, but the Fauss family’s learned they’ll need an architect to examine the structure first.

“It’s kind of a bigger process than I thought,” Michele said, noting they’re now on the hunt for a more permanent place to live. “I really hope we can stay in the neighborhood.”

Unfortunately, Lucy has yet to appear. But recently, they found some food had gone missing from their damaged house. They’re hoping it’s evidence the cat’s just been keeping her distance and might yet turn up.

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Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected].


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