Camper crushed, baby inside survives, witness says

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A tree crushed a camper trailer at Lake Alva over the weekend after high winds pushed through the area. No one was hurt in the incident, reportedly.

It was a close call for one family camped at Lake Alva this past weekend when a mature pine crashed down on the fifth-wheel trailer where a baby was sleeping, nearly splitting the vehicle in two.

The incident was reported to the Missoula County Sheriff’s Department on Friday evening, shortly after a powerful storm pushed through the Seeley-Swan Valley.

The Seeley Ranger District is investigating and couldn’t be reached Monday for comment. A witness said a baby was asleep inside the trailer when the tree came down.

She was retrieved “without a scratch on her,” the witness said.

Jenn Kitsmiller, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Missoula, said the storm blew through the valley at around 7:45 p.m. on Friday. Lake Alva took the brunt of the wind.

“From our radar data, we came up with an estimate in the 40 to 50 mph range,” Kitsmiller said. “What it was was outflow winds from the thunderstorm. Most likely, the strongest winds were out ahead of the storm itself.”

Kitsmiller said the weather office had placed a call to the Seeley Lake Ranger District to get more details on the wind damage and the type of tree that fell on the trailer, including its trunk diameter, age and general health.

“We try to factor all that information in to assign an estimated wind speed,” said Kitsmiller. “But it’s safe to say it was 40 to 50 mph.”

Brenda Bassett with the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office said dozens of trees were toppled in the area by the storm’s high wind. Lake Alva is located north of Seeley Lake near Lake Inez.

This article originally appeared on Missoula Current, an independent online newspaper, of which Martin Kidston is the founding editor.

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