Winter Storm Damage on Trees

A tree damaged during a December 08 ice storm in Goshen, MA before and after Jim McSweeney, certified arborist and horticulturalist, restored it.

This fall and winter has been a tough one for trees.  We have had epic October snowstorms, tornados, ice storms, etc…  While it is normally obvious when a tree is uprooted or snapped in half that the tree has got to be removed.  What is far more common is for trees after a storm to suffer from the loss of a few limbs.  You notice these as “hangers” or as branches of various sizes littering the ground at the base of the tree.  The question is now…what to do?  The answer is to evaluate.  A methodical and systematic inspection must follow.

When I walk onto a client’s site the five below criteria are the first of many things I look for:

1)    Has the tree lost more then 50% of its canopy?  If so then that is a big strike against it?

2)    Have the branches just snapped off or ripped all the way down the main trunk?  If so then strike 2.

3)    Is it a young, healthy, vigorously growing tree from a species that compartmentalizes wounds well?  If not then strike 3.

4)    Did the “root plate” lift up?  Does the tree now have a lean that it did not have before?  While many leans can be fixed it is one more strike against it.

5)    Is there a target near by?  A house, driveway, swing set?  If so then strike 5.

While the rules I give above are a guideline, a certified arborist should always make the final decision.  As there are dozens of micro-factors that will affect the final decision to remove a tree.  But if your tree has any one of the above strikes, or multiple ones, then its chance of survival are in jeopardy and should be immediately be evaluated.

But please remember that likely the tree is older then you are.  It has given countless birds, people and community places to sing, swing and live.  So do not plan to remove the tree until you have analyzed the 5 rules above then had a certified arborist evaluate the tree on site.

Jim McSweeney owns and operates Hilltown Tree and Garden, landscape design,installation and tree care for Northampton and Western Mass. You can also find (and please “Like” us) on Facebook.

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