Winter is by far the hardest season for our trees to cope with. Bitter cold temperatures, high winds, snow load and ice accumulation often lead to catastrophic failure of our beloved trees. We witnessed many such tree failures as recently as January 9th due to snow and ice loads.
By and large, many of our native trees have evolved to cope with our local climate and physical stresses that winter poses, however there are limitations and exceptions to this rule. Trees naturally shed limbs which have been weakened by past injury, insect and disease infestations as well as naturally occurring weaknesses, but what can we do to minimize the risk?
How do we prevent storm damage on trees?
Planning is the best prevention. A Certified Arborist is best suited to perform a risk assessment of your trees and make recommendations for the care of your trees. Trees which are in close proximity to structures, driveways and pedestrian areas are always the highest priority trees to inspect. Recommendations are often based upon the tree’s species, for example: Red Oak trees tend not to shed limbs during winter storms whereas White Pine trees do shed limbs under the same conditions.
Pruning and limb removal can be a good method of preventing storm damage. In many cases, only close visual observation will reveal weaknesses which ground observation cannot detect. Crown thinning on hardwood trees has proven to be helpful in damage prevention, however over thinning of evergreen trees negatively effects weight distribution of snow and ice loading. In short, this is a professional Arborist’s job!
The trees natural lean, location, natural disposition to winter failure, evidence of decay and history of past root injury are just a few factors that an arborist must consider during a tree risk assessment. There are cases in which your Arborist must recommend complete removal of a tree in order to make the situation safe.
In short, planning and prevention is the only way to minimize the potential risk that trees pose to your property and family. Remember that regardless of the size or frequency of maintenance, no tree can be made to be 100% safe!