MythBuster Monday! Trees in Storms

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Myth: Trees are a safety hazard during storms.



With the devastating ice storm of December 2013 still fresh in our minds, it’s understandable that many people are concerned about the dangers of trees during storms. The good news is that there are many ways to minimize the risks of tree-related injuries and damage, so that you can enjoy the benefits of having a tree without the worry.

Trees tend to become hazardous when they are unhealthy, or when they are not properly pruned and maintained. However, trees that are well looked after are much less likely to break or fall during stormy weather. Healthy trees can actually be an asset when it comes to storm management by mitigating climate change and intercepting stormwater.

Clearly, someone forgot to look UP before planting this tree!

The best time to start tree hazard prevention is actually before you plant it. Trees often cause damage when a branch (or entire tree) falls on an overhead wire or other structure. So, when it comes time to plant your tree, take the time to look around and identify wires, poles and other structures. Also, consider how large your tree is going to be down the road. Then, make sure you plant the tree well away from wires and buildings so that if a branch does break, it’s not going to cause a power outage or damage your property. The LEAF Backyard Tree Planting Program provides all participants with a consultation with a certified arborist who can help recommend ideal planting locations.

Having your tree structurally pruned when its 3-5 years old can prevent problems down the road. Photo from LEAF.

Calling on a certified arborist to prune your tree while it’s young can also increase its strength and resilience in storms. An arborist can use proper pruning practices to remove weak branch connections, improve your tree’s structure, and distribute the weight of the canopy so that there is less chance of branches breaking during high winds or ice storms. Properly pruning young trees can also minimize the need for further pruning down the road.

Mulching and regularly watering your tree can reduce stress and vulnerability to pests.

Furthermore, when trees are stressed, they can become especially vulnerable to pests that may reduce their structural strength. This increases the chance of branch or trunk breakage. You can help reduce tree stress by ensuring your tree has adequate water (particularly when it’s young) and mulching it in a donut shape around the base to provide nutrients and reduce weed competition. Keeping an eye on your tree for signs of stress or disease, and consulting a certified arborist regarding any concerns, can help you take steps to prevent further damage or eliminate any existing hazards, like dead branches. In some cases, a tree may really be too dangerous to keep around – an arborist can help you decide if it needs to be removed.

If treated well and monitored regularly, trees can bring you tons of benefits and actually work to reduce hazards. Trees intercept and absorb rainwater to prevent runoff during storms, which reduces flooding (a safety hazard itself!). By storing carbon dioxide, trees are also working to minimize the increase in extreme weather events caused by climate change. For these reasons, a well-looked after, healthy tree actually does more to prevent hazards than produce them!

So why not get your very own backyard tree from LEAF at Optional 5-year maintenance packages are available when you purchase your tree, plus LEAF staff are always happy to respond to any concerns you may have about your tree and recommend additional professional help if necessary to make sure your tree stays strong and healthy throughout its lifetime. Visit our Oakville Backyard Tree Planting Program page for more details.