Preventing Tree Damage from Wind and Storms
Summer storms in Florida are a common and alarming occurrence. Although we all love the warmth and sunshine that is often associated with much of the state, torrential downpours, violent thunderstorms, occasional tornadoes, high winds, and hurricanes do occur in almost yearly, which put trees and property at risk.
These Tree Problems Lead To Storm Damage
While you can’t marginalize the possibility of tree damage entirely during intense storms, you can do things to protect yourself and minimize the risk. Much of the injury sustained by trees during summer storms are avoidable if you know what to look for and then take action to remedy it.
Take a close look at your trees (stay on the ground – don’t try to climb them!) to see if any of the following problems exist. Each of these issues increases the risk of failure and damage from summer storms.
- Dead or damaged branches and/or trees. Look for deadwood (it’s easy to see while trees are leafed out), cracks or splits, hanging branches, or any other damage. These are more likely to snap when under pressure from high winds.
- Diseased or decayed wood. Trees and branches that aren’t healthy are generally weaker and more vulnerable to breakage.
- Structural problems. While a Certified Arborist is best able to identify structural issues that compromise the stability of a tree, there are some things you can see yourself. Look for V-shaped crotches, crossing branches that are rubbing against each other, and top-heavy trees (where the canopy has been “lifted” to provide more clearance underneath).
- Poor root structure. A tree that’s not firmly anchored is more susceptible to failure during a storm. Things to look out for include girdling roots, cut or damaged roots (such as from nearby construction), and newly-planted trees with little root growth.
- Severely leaning trees. Just because a tree is leaning, doesn’t mean that it will fall over. But the more it leans, the higher the risk of failure, especially when the ground is saturated.
- Lion-tailed trees. This is another pruning method we don’t employ because of health and safety implications for the tree. During a storm, the heavy foliage growth at the end of long, bare branch gets whipped around, breaking the branches.
- Topped trees. We do not top trees because new growth is poorly attached and susceptible to breakage. If a tree has previously been topped, it should be inspected for potential safety issues.
- Improperly pruned trees. Some trees are mistakenly “thinned” by removing a lot of branches from the tree’s interior while leaving plenty of foliage around the outside. Unfortunately, this misguided technique makes storm damage more likely.
- Overly-dense canopy. A tree with a thick canopy of leaves acts as a sail, rather than letting the wind pass through.
If you’re not sure whether or not your trees are a safety risk, give us a call. One of our tree care professionals can do a thorough tree inspection to identify any hazardous situations quickly.
How to Prevent Storm Damage to Your Trees
If a tree has severe problems that cannot be fixed, it’s safest (and, ultimately, more cost-effective) to remove the tree entirely.
Recently planted trees should be appropriately staked, so they don’t pull out of the ground during wind gusts.
Most other issues can be addressed by proper pruning. This involves both corrective pruning and crown thinning.
This pruning is done to fix problems like crossing branches, remove dead, damaged or diseased wood, or trim back overhanging branches that could damage your house or other structures.
Thinning is a pruning technique that reduces the tree canopy’s overall size and increases airflow through the branches (thus reducing wind resistance). Done correctly, only about 20% of the canopy is selectively removed throughout the tree. More massive growth at the end of branches is thinned out to reduce the load, so branches are less likely to snap in high winds. This is NOT the same as topping or lion tailing!
If your trees haven’t been pruned lately (in at least the last 5 to 7 years), it should be done now. Regular tree maintenance and pruning by a tree care professional are the best investments you can make to prevent tree damage from storms (during any season!), saving you time, money, and the aggravation of recovering from storm damage.