Will It or Won’t It? Warning Signs a Tree May Fall

tree1One of the greatest dangers to life and property during natural disasters is posed by falling trees and limbs. Growing trees will ‘catch’ more wind and become heavier, so they are prone to increased mechanical stresses, increasing the chances of failure. Preparing your trees for a natural disaster is a must and should be done well in advance of the storm season. To help ease these dangers, have a professional arborist evaluate your trees. Doing this will help you determine potential weaknesses and dangers.”

Inspect your trees for the following warning signs:

  • Wires in contact with tree branches. Trees may become energized when they are contacted by electric wires.
  • Dead or partially attached limbs hung up in the higher branches that could fall and cause damage or injury.
  • Cracked stems and branch forks that could cause catastrophic failure of a tree section.
  • Hollow or decayed areas on the trunk or main limbs, or mushrooms growing from the bark that indicate a decayed and weakened stem.
  • Peeling bark or gaping wounds in the trunk also indicate structural weakness.
  • Fallen or uprooted trees putting pressure on other trees beneath them.
  • Tight, V-shaped forks, which are much more prone to failure than open U-shaped ones.
  • Heaving soil at the tree base is a potential indicator of an unsound root system.

tree2Remember, too, that a tree is a living thing, and its integrity and stability change over time, so don’t assume that a tree that has survived nine severe storms will necessarily survive a tenth. For the DIY homeowner, outsourcing tree work may seem like an unnecessary expense. In reality, the costs of tackling tree care on your own can run high as most homeowners simply don’t have the tools, knowledge or experience necessary to safely attempt their own tree work.

Safe tree work requires extensive knowledge of tree physics and biology, which can take years of experience and study to acquire. For example, felling a tree in a controlled manner is not as simple as cutting through the trunk with a chain saw. It requires establishing a drop zone, making precise cuts, and sometimes guiding the tree safely to the ground with ropes as leverage.

tree3Up-ended root plates or root balls are also unpredictable. Severing the trunk of a fallen tree from an up-ended root plate releases tension, which may be strong enough to pull the stump and root ball back into the hole, trapping anything nearby underneath it. Other hazards may be invisible to the untrained eye. Rotten trunks and limbs, pest and fungal infestation and other defects can only be identified and treated by an experience tree care practitioner.

Homeowners may also be unaware of proper tool usage, especially when using chain saws and ladders. Common mistakes are to use a dull saw, which forces the operator to use excess pressure and potentially lose control of the tool, and to saw branches on the ground, which can result in kickback. Ladders that are too short, on unstable ground or supported by a faulty limb can easily result in injury.

tree4Tree work may also require tools the average homeowner does not own, such as stump grinders, wood chippers and aerial lifts. The best option for homeowners seeking tree work or removal on their property is to consult with a professional arborist.

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