Suki Sacks stands at the end of her Lawyer's Hill Road driveway with her dog, Yuki, waiting for her dad Scott Sacks to bring out the chain saw. (Kevin Rector, Photo by / August 31, 2011)

Nicholas and Lisa Badart didn't just lose power or a few groceries to Hurricane Irene.

The couple lost a house, a wardrobe and a sense of stability, though at least they and their pets are OK — barely.

It all started with the sound that woke Nicholas Badart Sunday, Aug. 28 just after 3 a.m.

"I heard this rumble and then a creaking noise and I was half asleep, and I thought, 'Oh no,' and woof, the whole roof came in," said Badart, who turned 74 Saturday, Aug. 27.


Submit a Letter to the Editor for the Laurel Leader, Columbia Flier and Howard County Times

Whipped by the storm's heavy overnight winds and destabilized because of saturated soil, the award-winning, 300-year-old ash tree in the front yard of Badart's historic home in the Lawyer's Hill area of Elkridge was uprooted and came smashing into the second-story bedroom.

A large fan came flying off the ceiling as the bulk of the tree smashed through the roof beams, hitting Lisa Badart, 55, in the head. The tree's trunk finally thudded to a halt about a foot from the bedside, trapping the Badarts. Lisa couldn't move at first because the fan was on top of her. Wind and rain came swirling into the room.

Since that shocking wake-up call, the Badarts have moved to the Homewood Suites by Hilton, in Columbia, along with their two dogs and four cats. Their Old Lawyer's Hill Road home sits shaken, its walls a little crooked from the impact of the massive tree, which a crane was scheduled to come lift on Wednesday, Aug. 31.

They had an electrician turn the power back on in the kitchen so their food would not spoil. But county fire and rescue has forbidden them to sleep there.

The tree smashed so thoroughly into their bedroom that they can't even get to their clothes and had to buy new ones to hold them over.

"I'm hoping that once they get the tree off, they'll be able to put a cover over (the roof) and clean up the second floor so we can get some clothes out of there," Nicholas Badart said. "There's no way I can get up in that bedroom and get anything else."

Then will come the insurance assessments, the paperwork and the official word as to whether their home, which sits on a steep ridge in Lawyer's Hill, can be saved.

Neighborhood damaged

Irene caused significant damage as massive, old-growth trees fell one after another throughout the historic neighborhood, which sits exposed on a large hill.

Scott Sacks had a large branch fall across his driveway. Charlie and Jo Borcherding had two large trees fall in their back yard, one into the other. Cathy Hudson had a tree fall, too.

But by far, the Badarts got it the worst, the damage to their home so extensive that it took emergency responders 30 minutes to get them out.

"They're saying, 'Well, where are you?' " said Lisa Badart, who returned to her home at about 11:15 a.m. Sunday with a white patient's wrist bracelet from St. Agnes Hospital, where a doctor had assured her that her head, which had a large bump on it from the ceiling fan, was fine.

"It just took a lot of crawling and then we had to get the dogs out and the cats out," she said.

"It truly was a miracle," her husband said.

"If it had been this much closer to Lisa," he said, suggesting about a foot with his hands, "she would have been dead."

"It's just disconcerting," she said of the moment she awoke. "The terrifying sets in later when you realize what could have been."

Now, it's less about what could have been, and more about what will be, her husband said.

"I suppose we're progressing, slowly, but surely," he said.