Wind, heavy rain, snow and even hail can cause significant damage to residential trees. Understanding the impacts of storms on trees will allow you to develop both preventative measures to decrease the probability of tree damage or property damage and management approaches to care for trees after damage has occurred.
Trees may be uprooted, decapitated or suffer massive crown loss as branches are broken by the force of the wind or by the weight of ice and snow. Loss of large portions of the crown results in tree stress, a reduction of growth and entry sites for insects and disease. Depending on the degree of damage, some trees will recover on their own, others need immediate care to repair the damage incurred and some are so irreversibly damaged that they will eventually die.
If you’re worried about a tree on your property that has suffered storm damage, give us a call and we will take a look!
The treatment of storm-damaged trees requires good assessment and prompt action. Factors to consider are whether the tree has damage that is relatively superficial, damage that can be treated or damage that is beyond repair. If more than 35 to 50 percent of the main branches or trunk are severely split or broken, extensive repairs are questionable.
Several types of damage occur to trees during storms.
The first and most severe damage occurs when the trunk or main stem of the injured tree splits or is broken. Mature trees that are larger are most susceptible to this type damage. Past tree injuries and pest problems often predispose the tree to storm damage by weakening the wood structure. Trees do not heal wounds. Trees can only grow over old wounds and seal them off. Wounds are structurally weaker than solid wood.
A second, damage category is blow-over of trees. Often trees that blow over have root failure from a disease (root rot), from shallow soils or those with shallow hard pans, from soil compaction during construction, or from saturated soil from excessive rainfall.
For small to medium-sized, blown-over trees with at least 50 percent of the root system still in the soil, it may be possible to brace them with guy wires or cables.
The final and least damaging category is that of broken branches where the break occurs away from the main stem. The higher the break and smaller the diameter of the break point, the higher the probability that the tree will recover. Broken branches generally do not affect tree survival unless more than 50 percent of the crown is involved. Generally, if a tree has lost more than 50 percent of its crown, the probability of future survival is poor. These branches need maintenance quickly so that they do not become a hazard and to decrease the risk of decay organisms entering the wounds.
For moderate trimming jobs close to ground level, homeowners should follow these guidelines:
- Smaller branches should be trimmed back to the point where they join larger ones.
- Make the cut at a slant next to a bud that can produce new growth.
- Do not leave branch stubs as they encourage rot and decay.
- Large branches that are broken should be cut back to either the trunk or main limb. Do not cut the branch flush with the trunk. Instead, cut outside the collar at the base of the branch.