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Winter Weighs Heavy on Unhealthy Trees

The sight of snow covered trees and dangling icicles can be pretty...and dangerous!

Broken tree

The sight of snow covered trees and dangling icicles can be pretty…and dangerous!

While many trees emerge seemingly unscathed from storms the seasons prior, that doesn’t mean they weren’t weakened. It’s always a good time for homeowners to perform an assessment of their trees’ health and have their trees evaluated by a certified arborist to protect themselves from potential property damage and liability claims.

About half of structural losses sustained during windstorms are caused by falling trees, with annual losses estimated to be between $3 billion and $5 billion. More than three-fourths of trees that fell during a weather event showed signs of a pre-existing and often correctable condition that made them vulnerable.

Routine maintenance of large trees is a critical component of any loss prevention program, particularly in wind-prone areas. While assessing the risk, homeowners need to ask themselves some key, and often tough, questions: Has that tree outlived its usefulness? What would happen if it fell on the house or on the neighbor’s house or into a busy street? Does the cost to remove the tree outweigh the risk of leaving it be?

Your trees may need a health checkup. The good news is many tree health issues are correctable without removal.

Here are some of the less easily recognized signs of poor tree health:

Root damage: Damage to roots is most easily detected above ground. Signs include branches that start dying at the tip or trunks that lean enough to need bracing.

Co-dominant stem: A tree with two main trunks is structurally unstable and at a high risk of failing.

Excessive lean: Many trees lean, but those with evidence of root lifting, soil mounding, cavities, cankers or decay are cause for concern.

Wounds: Trees attempt to close and compartmentalize wounds, but cavities, cankers or decay on more than 40% of the circumference can affect stability.

Longitudinal crack: Longitudinal cracks, especially ones that start at a branch union, can be dangerous.

Recent excavation within the drip-line: Excavation or construction within the drip-line damages feeder and anchoring roots, which weakens a tree, increases its susceptibility to disease and insects and makes it less stable and resistant to wind.

Removing a stately oak from the front lawn is often a difficult decision for a homeowner, but it’s better than removing that tree from your living room.


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