A Proactive Approach to Storm Preparation

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Last year, 2017, proved to be an overly active year for storms, and in many places the destruction is still felt. This year, we are taking an entirely new, proactive approach to storm preparation for our customers’ properties. The strategy can be summarized into three main pillars: Early action, thorough inspections and a multi-pronged treatment approach.

Early action

While many people focus their energy on preparing for “winter storm season,” Emerald Tree & Shrub Care has learned in our 20-plus years of doing business that hurricanes, tornadoes and fall nor’easter storms can be just as damaging during their peak season in August, September and October.  Our goal, is to get out for storm prep inspections in the first 2 weeks of August.

Thorough inspections

When walking the property, our main objective is to determine which limbs and trees overall pose a risk of failure in a high-wind storm. It’s important to note that it is impossible to accurately predict when and if a tree will fail, but as arborists, we know many symptoms that can lead to a tree’s failure. Below is a list of red flags we look for.

Overall structure: The appropriate branch size for a mature tree is approximately two-thirds the diameter of the trunk. Ideally, with large shade trees we like to see one dominant trunk (leader) growing up to the top of the canopy.

A leaning tree can sometimes be a completely natural occurrence and no cause for concern. It could be the tree adjusting itself for better sunlight. However, it could also be the result of a weakened root system or previous storm damage. It’s important to examine these trees closely, looking for cracks in the trunk, dropped branches, heaving root systems and other signs of failure.

Weak limbs: A limb without bark or leaves or with dead leaves is a sign of dead wood. These are the top priority to remove, because with no life inside, they become brittle and are unable to bend or sway with the wind. These branches will crack and fall very easily during a storm.

Limbs with wounds, holes or cavities could be a sign that infection has entered the tree, causing decay. When a limb has grown larger than the trunk, it is typically beyond the normal weight that can be supported by the tree.

Root health: When you see exposed root zones that are not protected by a layer of earth, you must be concerned about their strength. Severed or damaged roots can occur when a structure, street or path is built within the tree’s root zone. Signs of severed roots are seeing one side of the tree declining or dying, fungal fruiting bodies or scarification of the buttress root area.

Once an inspection is complete, it is then our job to determine the necessary course of action. It’s important to remember that mature trees also serve to provide protection to our homes during high-wind storms. While a homeowner might want to remove all mature trees out of fear of them failing, we must explain that they provide a significant buffer that can protect properties from heavy wind damage during storms

Multi-faceted action plan

Once weak or at-risk trees are identified on a client’s property, we develop a storm-prep proposal for each property given its unique needs. The plans are scalable but comprehensive, including everything recommended to minimize risk from storm damage in the coming year. Below are a list of the services likely to appear on a storm prep proposal.

  • Pruning out deadwood and weakened branches
  • Cabling or bracing overgrown limbs or dual trunks
  • Fertilization and watering to ensure trees have proper nutrients to stay strong all winter long
  • Removal of trees that are considered hazardous and won’t likely weather the storms

If we’ve learned anything from last year’s storms, it’s that you can never be too prepared for what Mother Nature will throw at you. Proactive storm preparation is probably not on your list of things to do this summer, but it’s our duty as arborists to alert you to any risks and help keep your properties safe year-round. If you are interested in having an arborists inspect your trees, call us at 914-725-0441.

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