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Storm Damage Caused by Rotted Tree Trunk

It’s late on Friday afternoon, and a Glenside homeowner is out running errands when her cell phone starts dinging with text messages. She checks her phone to find alerts from her neighbors: a tall Hemlock Tree has crashed down onto her house in the 60 mph wind gusts! She rushes home to find the massive tree trunk resting on the side of her roof. This homeowner wasn’t expecting to kick off her weekend with storm damage, but thankfully Giroud ISA Certified Arborist, Mike Chenail was able to assess the tree ASAP.

Storm Damage Hemlock-Glenside-rotted trunk
The trunk of the Hemlock Tree was rotted through the middle, causing it to snap in the 60 mph wind gusts.

Hidden Danger

The tree originally stood in the middle of a line of other Hemlocks, so what caused this one to fall while the others stood strong against the high winds? As it turns out, this tree was rotted through in the middle of the trunk! It’s hard to say what originally caused the decay. Rotted trees can be infected with diseases or infested with insects, or they could even have poor root damage unseen below the surface. However, preventative tree inspections with an ISA Certified Arborist could have alerted the homeowners to a problem before it became a disaster.

Preventing Storm Damage

High winds and icy conditions can strike at any time, and storm damage can be dangerous and expensive! Checking your trees before storms hit is the best way to ensure they can withstand the crushing force of snow, ice and gusty winds that can send heavy limbs crashing and wreak havoc on your property. There are preventative measures you can take now. Start with a visual check of your trees:

  1. Did your trees show signs of stress last summer? Premature fall color change, early leaf drop, abnormally small or pale leaves, or new growth that wilted are all indicators of a potential problem.
  2. Does the trunk have a cavity or signs of splitting? Scan the trunk and main leaders for holes (cavities), decay and cracked or split crotches.
  3. Is the bark peeling from the trunk? Gently pull on a piece of bark. It should not break off easily.
  4. Are twigs and buds developing normally? Scrape either a twig or bud with a thumbnail. It should be a healthy green, not brown or otherwise discolored.
  5. Is new growth surviving the strains of winter? Try to bend a twig. Does it snap because it’s dry and brittle?

If your trees exhibit any of these signs, you need to schedule an inspection with your Giroud ISA Certifed Arborist.

Storm Damage Hemlock-Glenside
The Hemlock originally stood in the middle of a row of similar trees. However, this one fell due to unseen internal trunk rotting.

Some Trees are More Prone to Storm Damage than Others

If heavy snow strikes, take special care of trees like White Pines, Arborvitae, Bradford Pear and Birch. Before the snow gets too heavy, shake or brush it off shrubs and small trees to prevent breakage. All trees should be inspected, but these trees are more common victims and their branches can easily break under the weight of snow.

Prevent Storm Damage with an Inspection

We want to help keep your trees and property safe. Here’s what we recommend:

  1. Hazard Inspection: Have your Giroud Arborist do a root to crown inspection to identify hazards such as cracks, weak limbs, deadwood or unsafe root systems.
  2. Tree Removal: Dead trees are a hazard and must be removed. Winter is an especially good time for removals since the ground is hard and there is less risk of damaging understory plants and lawns.
  3. Winter Pruning: Two types of pruning are most critical in the winter: deadwood removal and reducing wind resistance. Selectively thinning branches helps the wind to move more easily through the tree and prevents uprooting. However, never thin more than 25% of a tree’s crown at one time. Additionally, dead branches should also be removed since those are the first to break in a storm.
  4. Install Cables or Bolts: Trees with multiple trunks or weakly attached limbs are prime targets for splitting. To successfully secure a tree, use a tree service professional with the knowledge required to select the best cable system for each tree’s specific situation and install it at the right tension and location in the tree.

Giroud Inspections are always FREE! Call 215-682-7704 to schedule yours today!

Author: Jeanne Hafner

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