Regardless of where you may live, at some time your property will be hit by a severe storm. It could be a blizzard, an intense thunderstorm, a wind storm or even a hurricane or tornado. Regardless of the source, these types of storms have the potential to damage your trees and shrubs. The aftermath of the storm may result in property damage, but often the result comes in the form of tree damage , including broken limbs, branches and, in some cases, entire trees ripped out of the ground by high winds.
What steps do you need to take to safely clean up after the storm is over?
First of all, check to make sure that none of the fallen limbs are resting on power lines. If this is the case, you need to contact your local utility company to have the branches removed. This is not a job for the average homeowner and could result in bodily harm. It is best to let the experts deal with this type of situation.
In most cases, many of the branches that come down will be branches that have already died. Individual tree branches will die due to a variety of reasons, so if they come down, it is sometimes a good thing. Other times, branches that have been weakened by a disease, or may have been damaged by a past storm, get to the point where they are susceptible to breaking by a strong wind.
One picture shows a locust tree that was damaged in the past, probably by a past wind storm. If you look at the crack, you will see some callus growth on either side of the split where the tree tried to repair the past damage. Wood decaying fungi have penetrated the wound and when a recent storm came through, the tree was not able to withstand the pressure and it started to crack. Unfortunately, this tree had to be cut down as a safety precaution.
In the next picture, you will see an example of the same type of damage. This tree is a Bradford Pear, which has a tendency to break easily in high wind situations. Again, sometime in the past, this tree started to crack. You can see how the wood decaying fungi have weakened the tree to a point where it could no longer withstand high winds. This tree can be saved for the time being, but it will not have a very appealing canopy. The wood decaying fungi will continue to eat away at the tree and it could lose another major limb in the future. At that point, the tree will have to be cut down.
Cut any broken branches that can easily be reached. When making the cut, choose a location just above a lateral branch. Do not cut the damaged limb in the middle, leaving a section without any lateral branches near the cut end. Cutting close to a lateral branch will allow new growth to form at that point. Cutting in the middle will result in a dead branch from the closest lateral branch to the end of the stump.
If large sections of your tree have come down and are in a precarious position, it may be better to contact a professional tree pruning company. The same is true if large branches have broken higher than you can reach by standing on the ground to make the cuts. You may be able to use a pole pruner to reach smaller branches that are less than six inches in diameter. Again, be careful as a large limb can fall in an unpredictable manner. Never climb up a ladder to use a pole saw as the back and forth motion of sawing may result in the ladder tipping over.
In most cases, the limbs that come down are either dead or were in a stressed situation and could not withstand the additional stress of high winds. Use practical sense when tackling the pruning and clean up of the downed and broken branches. Contact a professional tree care company when large limbs are broken and remain in the tree. It is better to be safe than sorry.