Sabine Co. man still living in house severely damaged by tree 6 months ago

SABINE COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - A person walking up to Raymond Johnston's home in the Six Mile community near Hemphill may not notice the severe damage at first. However, once he or she walks inside his mobile home, it's evident what happened six months ago.

Imagine waking up and seeing your home in pieces like this.

"It happened about 2 o'clock in the morning. I just heard a big bang," Johnston said. "I just rolled over and went back to sleep. The next morning I went up to go to the bathroom, and I saw it and said, 'oh hell.'"

Johnston has been living in this mobile home for the past 18 years and watching these trees grow on National Forest land.

He spent many years working with trees before he retired, so he knew exactly who to call in October when he noticed the large tree leaning over his house.

"Two months before it fell, I went over there and talked to them and told them it was going to fall," Johnston said. "They sent two foresters out here, and they looked at it and said it's alright. A U.S. Forest Service spokesperson told me the tree wasn't dying, and the foresters didn't see it as something that would fall anytime soon, so they didn't cut it down."

Johnson said when the USFS foresters asked him how tall the tree was, he replied, "About 110 feet."

Johnston told the USFS personnel exactly where he thought the tree would soon land.

"It's going to hit the air conditioner on the trailer," Johnston said. "You look at the air conditioner; it hit right in the middle of it."

The tree has been removed but six months later, the damage was still here.

The 78-year-old resident lives alone and without a kitchen, and he's been forced to eat out every day hoping the Forest Service will soon give him an answer.

"They hadn't done nothing," Johnston said. "I don't understand. I know it takes a long time for the government to do anything, but if you owe them, they want their money right then."

It may be costly to replace Johnston's living room and kitchen, but he says life has no price tag.

"Well, if I would've been on that couch I would've been dead," Johnston said.

Johnston told East Texas News he has had to direct all of his questions and concerns to the National Forest Service.

After Johnston filed a claim, the damage was surveyed in December. Ernie Murray, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service, said Johnston submitted a second claim in April, which made the process start all over again. His claim is currently being processed in New Mexico.

The report will be sent to the Office of General Council in Temple, Texas where a determination for repairs will be made hopefully sometime next month.

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