Experts advise people to take care with trees

Last Friday’s storm stirred memories of other devastating storms to hit the region — the Ice Storm of 2005, the Blizzard of 1978.

Chainsaws again could be heard throughout the county at many times during the day as people cleaned up trees that fell on their yards, homes, sheds and automobiles. However many trees, while the “wounds” may look fatal,  have an amazing ability to recover, experts say.

“Major branches may be broken, foliage might be shredded, or bark may be torn or gouged,” said Sonia Garth of the National Arboriculture Society (NAS), “but trees have an amazing ability to recover from even the most severe cases.”

The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) says a few simple tree first aid procedures should be followed, but that trees can be saved in most cases.

Residents should not try to do all of the work themselves. If large limbs are broken or hanging, or if ladders or overhead chainsaws are needed, a professional should be called to do the work. Safety precautions should always be taken, such as watching out for downed utility lines or hanging branches that look like they may fall.

If the tree appears basically healthy other than the storm damage, there is an excellent chance for recovery. A tree can be evaluated by checking the major limbs or the “leader” branch (the main upward-trending branch on most trees). If at least 50 percent of the tree’s crown is still intact and the remaining branches appear to be able to form a new branch structure, then there is a good chance for recovery. A certified arborist can help determine the tree’s condition.

Broken branches and stubs should be removed from the tree to minimize the chance of decay. Smaller branches should be pruned at the point where they join the larger branches. For larger branches, a professional should be used.

ISA officials recommend people not “top” the trees or over-prune them. Topping a tree generally results in weaker branches growing higher on the tree and results in less foliage. Trees generally can recover fairly quickly and do not need to be pruned for balance.

Caution should be used also if a tree has been knocked down or damaged to the point of no recovery.

Tchukki Andersen of the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) said it is a ripe time for injuries.

“Storm clean-up is often when property owners crank up a chainsaw for the first time,” Andersen said. “And, not surprisingly, they injure themselves.”

Andersen said if a utility pole is down, it should be assumed it is energized. Many lines can be hidden by brush or foliage. If you suspect a downed line call the utility company immediately.

TCIA experts recommend having a professional remove the tree if it is taller than 20 feet. Ladders should not be used when working on storm damaged trees.

If the tree has any signs of decay, weak spots, hanging limbs, or any metal or concrete in around the tree, the tree is unstable and extra precautions need to be taken.  

Before cutting the tree, the area should be inspected for utility lines, structures, vehicles, shrubs, or any other items. Look for other people in the area, particularly children, who could roam into the drop zone. Do not cut wood that is trapped under another piece of wood, causinf tension.

“Consider all the possibilities,” Andersen said. “Ask yourself what will happen when I cut this branch or tree.”

In either case, both recommended hiring tree care professionals to do the work. Tree care professionals carry liability insurance and adhere to industry standards of quality and safety.


Contact info


Who to call — The TCIA and the NAS can help you locate a tree professional or answer questions. Call the TCIA at 1-800-733-2622 or the NAS at 217-355-9411.