BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. — When wind took down a 100-year-old cottonwood tree near Niwot, it nearly took out a driver as well.
The trunk of the tree is at least 4 feet in diameter and it fell across both lanes of traffic just as a woman was passing through.
“It’s cliche, but it really is like a slow-motion movie,” Laura Staisiunas said. “You just can’t describe it. There was like a microburst of wind, almost like a mini-tornado that cam around.
Whatever it was, it thrust Staisiunas into a role she could have never prepared for.
“When the branch came down, I think your immediate response is just to stop,” she said. “The branch hit. I had a branch come through the windshield. My windshield shattered, I couldn’t see, but for some reason, I just kept on going. I kept on going.”
And even after she stopped about 50 yards later, her fate remained about as clear as her windshield.
“Kind of did a little self assessment,” Staisiunas said. “I thought, ‘OK, I didn’t hit my head and my fingers move, my toes move. I looked and I don’t have any broken limbs that I can see.”
A moment later, she came to find out hers were virtually the only limbs still intact.
“Four seconds later, you hear this come down, and it went right across. It tore the lines down,” Staisiunas said. “The tree was so big, it tore limbs from the other trees too.”
Staisiunas knows her story could have been pure tragedy.
“If I would have stopped, I would have been underneath this,” she said.
Staisiunas was not injured.