Do Storm Damaged Trees Need to be Removed?

Our recent east coast storms have pushed many trees to the limit--almost everyone has damaged trees in our area of Virginia. Entire trees pushed over by wind, large branches snapped off and weak trees losing large sections has not been uncommon.

Over last winter, Pine and Cedars of all types, Hollies, Magnolias, saplings and small ornamentals were stressed to the breaking point under the weight of wet snow.

hollow maple breaks apart

This old maple was pushed too far by wind and rains and one of the main hollow trunks fell gently on this porch.

White Pine winter pruning, storm damage

A White Pine (at right) naturally has long feathery branches, but given optimal sun and moisture, they grow far too long for a winter storm with heavy snow.

Is it necessary to remove the tree?

If the trunk has a large rip or tear or if it is broken open, then you may very well need to have the tree removed. A certified arborist can advise you as to whether the tree has sustained mortal damage. Each tree must be looked at individually and there are many factors to weigh. Read more about tree removal.

Large silver maple on house

Can the tree be saved?

Obviously the above tree not getting saved. But go outside and look at your tree damage: If branches have broken off without tearing the trunk, the stubs can be cleanly cut and it is highly likely that the tree or large shrub can be saved. To prevent further tree damage, branches of similar length and weight may need to be carefully pruned or removed.

If there are loose branches hanging in the tree, cordon off the area below immediately! A branch hitting a person or property can inflict serious harm!

Other issues to consider are the overall balance of the weight of remaining limbs. Is the tree now lopsided with respect to weight? Would a thorough pruning correct the weight balance so that it no longer a liability for falling over at some point in the future?

What can be done to prevent future breakage?

Simply have the tree pruned for weight reduction. A certified arborist knows a great deal about the dynamics of load on tree limbs. Every tree species and individual trees must be assessed for their structure, shape, growing conditions, and whether the tree presents risks to activities below it.
Your trees will not lose their unique branching or shape in the hands of a skilled professional, but they will be more resistant to wind, snow loads and ice.



Broken branches winter storm snow

Oftentimes such storm events make us look differently at the trees above our homes and driveways, whether we had our own damaged trees or if we saw our neighbors incur the headaches! Perhaps you were out of electrical power--most likely because of damaged or fallen trees or branches falling!

Looking at your trees with a sober eye during these storm times is a very smart. Go outside with a pen and paper and make a list of your observations and call a certified aborist to help you make some decisions.

As with many things in life, pro-action can save your trees from damage or complete failure, and save you the hassle later of dealing with damage to property or life, and emergency expense.

Winter trees

If you didn’t sustain damage to your trees, be cautious anyway! Branches and trunks that have been twisting and bending under the load of snow or ice may have sustained micro fractures below the bark that can give way at the next storm event.

Hopefully if you have been having your trees pruned, including your pine trees, evergreen trees and large evergreen shrubs, you saw less damage. By removing overextended length from branches, a pruned branch holds less snow, is shorter, and has more strength to resist the weight of wet snow.

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