Decisions Regarding Storm-Damaged Trees

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When storms damage landscape trees, homeowners have many questions about what to do with their damaged trees. No set of simple guidelines can fit all conditions and homeowners will, unfortunately, face situations where the removal of their damaged trees will be dangerous and expensive.

Homeowners should seek assistance from certified arborists. When selecting a Tree Care Professional look for a combination of education, experience, certifications, licenses, and references.

Beware of people soliciting work door-to-door without identification on their vehicle, uniform, or I.D. card. “Door knockers” are especially common after storms, when there is an opportunity for quick money. However, storm damage often creates high-risk situations for both workers and homeowners. Working near downed electrical power lines requires special certification and licensing. In addition, trees damaged by the storm can be further injured if work is not done correctly. Never be rushed by bargains, and never pay in advance.

If your tree situation fits any of the following criteria, CAREFULLY remove the tree and split it for firewood: Windblown in one direction and the trunk is not broken, but Image of damaged treesmost of the roots are out of ground; Large trees that are heavily “skinned” by flying debris and are standing or leaning less than 45° angle from vertical with at least 4 or more live limbs; Trees with the trunk broken and have 0‐3 live limbs.

If your tree trunk is broken, but still retains at least 4‐7 lives limbs and the trunk not leaning where there is no root damage, then the tree should live. Remove any broken branches and trim off any broken tops.

If your tree is windblown in one direction and leaning less than a 45°-angle from vertical with most roots in ground, where the trunk not broken and still has at least 4‐7 lives limbs then it should live. Remove all trees that pose a hazard to people structures, utility lines, etc.

If your large tree is lightly “skinned” by flying debris and is standing or leaning less than 45°-angle from vertical and has at least 4 or more live limbs, then it should live. Trim away loose bark.

For more information about what to look for and the right questions to ask, review the information in our How to Hire a Tree Care Professional publication.

Before you replace and replant there are a few things besides aesthetics to keep in mind. To avoid conflict with community infrastructure and utilities, consider the following before planting:

  • The final height and spread at maturity of the tree you want to plant.
  • Anything above and below the planting location that may create a conflict in the future.

Before planting, call North Carolina 811 to ensure that it is safe to dig: 811 or 1-800-632-4949.

Minda Daughtry is Horticulture Agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.