Storm Damage to Trees

Tim Baker, Professional and Horticulture Specialist, University of Missouri Extension

In 2007, we had a major ice storm in our area, and I wrote a couple of columns on how to deal with storm damage to trees. While we have seen a lot of ice this winter, the damage to trees has not been that bad for the most part.

But soon, spring will be here, and the potential for damaging winds may increase. If significant damage to your trees occur, you may face decisions on how to treat them. Can the storm-damaged tree be saved?  If so, how should it be repaired?  Or do you need to take the tree out?

There are several considerations.  First of all, how did the tree appear before the storm?  Was it healthy, or did it have major problems?  If the tree was on the way out, it may not be worth saving. 

Does it present a safety hazard in its present state?  Are major limbs broken?  Were major portions of the tree removed?  What about the central leader?  Is it still present?  This will affect the shape and future looks of the tree.

Is at least 50% of the tree still intact?  If so, and if there are no major structural problems, it may have a good chance at surviving.

What about wounds?  Are they large or small?  Has the bark been damaged?  Are significant portions of bark gone?  If problems with wounds or missing bark are minor, the tree may be able to repair the damage and survive.  However, significant problems in this area may lead to more difficulties later, including increased disease and insect problems.

Finally, go back to thinking about the tree before the storm.  Did you like the tree?  Was it suitable in its present location?  Was it an appropriate species for the location?  If you can’t answer these positively, this might be a good excuse to remove the tree.

And I can’t stress the safety factor enough.  Are there major structural problems from the damage, which are hazardous or may lead to future damage?  You don’t want to take chances here.  And some damage may not be readily apparent.

If there is any doubt, I would highly recommend that you consult a professional arborist or experienced tree service company.  These people have the expertise to assess structural damage to the tree.  Just as important, they have the proper equipment to safely remove hazardous tree limbs and make repairs.

After weighing all these factors, there are three possible outcomes: keep the tree and repair it, take the tree out, or if it’s really a borderline case, and you value the tree, you may opt to fix what you can and wait and see if the tree survives.  You can always take it out later, if needed.

In my next column, I will give some tips if you decide to work on the tree yourself.

University of Missouri Extension programs are open to all

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