Barry and Gillian Wadman were sound asleep in bed early Tuesday morning when they were suddenly jolted awake by a loud "bang and thud" and a shower of debris.
A neighbour's towering red oak tree – which the Toronto couple had long eyed warily – crashed through their second-floor bedroom ceiling and showered them with drywall, insulation, wood splinters and tar paper around 1:50 a.m. during Superstorm Sandy.
"My immediate thought was, 'God, something's hit the house and are we OK?' And the answer is 'Yes, we're OK and let's get out of here before anything else happens'," said Mr. Wadman, a 70-year-old education consultant.
The Wadmans quickly got dressed, scooped up their cockapoo Cubby and headed downstairs to find that their kitchen, which is underneath the bedroom, was also a mess, with damage to the joists, drywall and French doors.
"The back of the house is pretty much demolished," Mr. Wadman said while surveying the damage from a neighbour's property. "The blessing is that we're both alive and safe."
After assessing the situation, the Wadmans stationed themselves in their living room and began making phone calls, first to the police and then to their insurance company, who sent an adjustor over around 6 a.m. A structural engineer came by in the afternoon.
"This is going to be a bit of a lengthy process to get our house restored to its former appearance," Mr. Wadman said. In the meantime, the building is uninhabitable and the pair must find temporary accommodation.
By mid-afternoon Tuesday, Mr. and Ms. Wadman, 59, didn't yet know where they would spend Tuesday night and hadn't found their cat Missy, who went missing in the chaos.
The Wadmans bought the two-storey brick and stucco house, which was built in 1921, on Neville Park Boulevard in the Beaches neighbourhood in 1983. Ever since, they have been concerned about the towering red oak tree – about 100 years old and about 30 metres tall – in their neighbour's back yard. Mr. Wadman said they had discussed it with their neighbour, who passed away in August, and she had it inspected and pruned.
"It hung over our property considerably and it was weighted to that side," he said. "It was top heavy to our side."
Their neighbour's house is currently for sale for $729,000.