Prevent your trees from dying after severe weather leaves them in tatters. By knowing what to do after weather events damage your trees, you can take swift action to save them and protect your property.
toddsmariettatreeservices.com gathered information on what to do and how to assess the condition of your trees, deciding what to do with them after sustaining catastrophic storm damage, and how to prevent it.
Damaged Tree Assessment
Once a severe storm has passed, take a look at your trees. The faster you can identify damages, the faster you can take action to secure their safety and start their recovery. Some emergency situations include:
Leaning Tree – This usually indicates that the root plate has destabilized, leaving the tree unanchored to the ground.
Hanging Branch(es) – Sometimes, branches break but remain attached to the tree or get caught in lower branches.
Cracked Trunk – The weight of the tree swaying in the wind can cause vertical cracks (splits) in the tree trunk.
Damaged Bark – When large sections of bark are damaged or lost during a storm, the tree can end up girdled and dying.
Defoliation – In storms with sustained high winds, a tree may lose a great portion or all of its foliage.
Windthrow – This condition occurs when a tree is blown over, pulling up the roots as it comes down.
Windsnap – This condition occurs when a tree crown breaks off the trunk due to high winds.
Soil Erosion – Another potentially dangerous situation is when the soil is stripped away from a tree’s root plate by floodwater, leaving large areas of roots exposed. The tree could suddenly destabilize and fall.
These and many other scenarios should be addressed by a certified arborist or professional tree service. In emergency situations, they are better equipped to prune, cut, or remove affected trees.
Arborists and Professional Tree Services
Unfortunately, severe or catastrophic weather seems to bring some bad characters along with it. If you are approached by people with a chainsaw offering to remove or repair your tree, politely decline and reach out to a professional. You can find or verify an arborist’s credentials in your area by visiting one of the following:
- ISA – International Society of Arboriculture – treesaregood.org/findanarborist
- ASCA – American Society of Consulting Arborists – asca-consultants.org
- TCIA – Tree Care Industry Association – tcia.org
When seeking a professional tree service, answer the following questions before making your decision:
- Is the company licensed to work in your city or state?
- Is the company recognized by national, state, or local organizations?
- Is the company insured and/or bonded?
- Does the company have local references?
While vetting a tree service in an emergency situation may seem ludicrous, it is necessary. If you allow an uninsured or unlicensed company to perform any services on your property or on your behalf, you can be held liable for damages and/or injuries resulting from that work.
Tree Risk Assessment
Can your tree be saved? Storms can leave your trees looking like there’s no hope. Major limbs snapped, foliage stripped away, or damaged bark may leave you with the impression that your tree is doomed. However, trees have an amazing capacity to recover from storm damage. Before deciding to remove your tree, ask the following:
Before the storm, was the tree healthy and thriving?
If your tree is healthy, did not suffer any major structural damage, and poses no immediate threat, it will likely recover over time. Prune out damaged areas, consult a tree professional with any doubts, and allow the tree to recuperate on its own.
Has the tree lost major limbs or its leader?
When a tree suddenly loses major limbs or its leader, it will be significantly more difficult for the tree to recover. When the tree does recover from such injuries, it may end up as a stunted or deformed version of the original.
Has the tree lost more than 50% of its crown(branches and leaves)?
When a tree loses more than half of its branches, it may be unable to produce enough foliage to sufficiently photosynthesize enough nutrients to nourish the tree.
Are the wounds left on your tree recoverable?
A tree can compartmentalize and close over wounds. However, this process takes time, and the more extensive the damages, the more likely the tree is to be successfully attacked by insects and diseases.
After pruning away damaged limbs and branches, have your tree assessed by a tree professional to help you determine its survivability.
Is this your opportunity to replace a nuisance tree?
If you consider your tree as the wrong species for its location (too tall, too messy, invasive roots, etc.), this may be the best time to remove the tree.
Time to Make a Decision
Using the above information, questions, and professional evaluation, you can make a well-informed decision about the fate of your tree(s). Most of those decisions will fall into one of the following three categories:
My Tree is a Keeper
- Damage is minor
- Light pruning required
- The tree is young enough to quickly recover
Wait for My Tree to Recover
- Damage is extensive but not apparently fatal
- Prune broken branches and give the tree time to recover
- Avoid removing healthy limbs and branches
- Consult a tree professional to assess the tree
Remove My Tree
- If the tree was already infested or diseased
- The trunk has vertically split
- Windsnap has severed the upper portion of the crown
- Most of the branches have been lost
- Too much bark was stripped away in the storm
- After allowing time to recover, the tree has only declined
Tip: When pruning your tree after a storm, never cut the main (upward) branches back to stubs or to the trunk. This practice is known as topping, and the branches that replace them will grow weakly attached and more likely to sustain damage during a future storm.
Trees and Storms
While trees are incredibly resilient, severe weather events can create some incredibly dangerous scenarios, exposing weaknesses in tree crowns, trunks, and roots.
Your awareness and understanding are of the most crucial factors regarding your trees after severe weather. Consider the following:
Power Line Safety – Along with tree damage, downed or damaged power lines can pose a severe threat of electrocution. When power lines and trees interfere with one another, it can leave the tree energized. Keep your distance from such situations and contact your utility company or 911 emergency services.
Property Damage – When a storm-damaged tree falls on your property, damaging your home or other structures, the following will help you sort out the situation:
- Move everyone to safety
- If anyone was injured, call emergency services
- Contact your insurance company
- Photograph or video all damaged areas from multiple angles
- Contact an emergency tree removal company
- Contact a plumber to evaluate your home for potential leaks and hidden damages
- Contact a roofing company to evaluate and repair any damages to your roofing system
Other trees on your property should be evaluated for structural damages.
Be Patient – After a severe storm passes through your area, city officials and response teams need time to organize and properly respond to the destruction left behind.
City crews, utility crews, and tree care companies will first focus on eliminating hazards to life and property. Afterward, the often daunting task of debris removal, including fallen branches and entire trees, will take place.
Responsibility – The responsibility of storm-damaged street-side trees varies from city to city. To determine whether you are responsible for street-side trees bordering your property, contact your city’s arborist or forester.
Tree Preparation for Storms
One of the greatest ways to help your trees survive a storm is to prepare them for one. While a storm’s impact is unpredictable, there are ways to give your tree a fighting chance. Consider the following:
- Keep your tree sufficiently watered
- Fertilize when needed
- Mulch the root plate
- Prevent or eliminate insect infestations or diseases
- Annual tree inspections
- Crown thinning and seasonal pruning
Tip: Remove trees in rapid decline or that have already died. When these trees fall in severe storms, they can cause catastrophic damage to structures and other healthy trees.
Read more about preparing trees for storms at toddsmariettatreeservices.com/tree-preparation-storms-hazardous-weather/
Trees Surviving Storms
In this article, you discovered how to assess the condition of your trees after severe weather events, how to determine a course of action for your damaged trees, and preventative measures to take before a storm.
Knowing how to assess your trees after severe weather events, you can help them recover or make informed decisions about their removal.
When you ignore storm-damaged trees, you create the possibility for catastrophic damages when your tree suddenly falls on your home or car.