Falling trees and limbs cause millions of dollars in damage each year. Windstorms, such as hurricanes, are a leading cause of such damage. The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) developed several ways to help prevent damage before a storm strikes and how to clean up the aftermath.
Some trees are more prone to storm damage than others. A shallow-rooted tree growing in soft soil can easily topple onto a building in strong winds. A tree’s roots also can become weakened after heavy rains, elevating the risk. Have an arborist check trees to assess
their resistance to storm damage.
These potential problems are easy to spot:
- Cracks in the trunk or major limbs
- Hollow and decayed trees
- Trees that look one-sided or lean significantly
- Branches hanging over the building near the roof
- Limbs in contact with power lines
- Mushrooms growing from the bark, indicating a
decayed or weakened stem
- V-shaped forks rather than U-shaped ones. V-shaped
are more likely to split
- Crossing branches that rub or interfere with one another
Good pruning can prevent many problems. Prompt removal of diseased, damaged, or dead plant parts helps limit the spread of harmful insects and disease, as well as reduce the possibility of future storm damage. Experts offer these pruning tips:
- Check local tree regulations prior to pruning or tree
- Avoid pruning branches flush to the trunk. Doing so
removes not only the limb but also some of the trunk
wood, exposing the plant to decay or insect damage.
- Begin pruning by making a cut partway through the
bottom of any limb to be trimmed, a few inches from
- Then, cut through the limb just above the
first cut. This ensures when the limb falls, it will not
tear off a long strip of bark on the way down.
- Finish by cutting off the few inches sticking out from
the trunk. Be sure to leave the “branch collar,” the
swollen area of trunk tissue that forms around the
base of a branch. This protects the main trunk from
Storm Damaged Trees
It’s also important to care for storm-damaged trees. Take the following steps:
- In general, it is best to reset only smaller trees,
since larger trees will be weakened and may fall
- Weakened sections of trees and shrubbery can
easily be blown around during a high winds;
causing extensive damage to structures, knocking
down utility lines and blocking roads and drains.
- Cut weak branches that could easily be thrown
against a structure during high winds. Also, reduce
the chances of branches becoming weak by
trimming branches more than 5 ft. long. Remove
Spanish moss growing on limbs.
- Remove branches hanging over a structure.
- Contact the local utility company to trim away any
limbs close to utility lines that could potentially
pull down lines or even entire poles. It is important
to never touch a wire while trimming.
- Decide what to do with tree stumps.
- If you are going to leave them or have
someone grind them, cut the stump off flush
with the ground.
- If you plan to remove them, leave 4 ft. of
- Removal will be cheaper and easier if stumps
can be pulled out instead of dug out.