If you are a homeowner with landscape trees that give you pride, a good winter ice storm can really initiate worry. Is that worry warranted, and is there something that you can do to help your trees after an ice storm or other winter storm?
Lindsey Purcell, Purdue urban forestry specialist, recently wrote an article about winter weather tree tips. Below are excerpts of Purcell’s main points of the story.
First, do not shake limbs to try to remove ice.
“When you find your trees are bending or drooping as a result of ice or snow accumulation, your first instinct is probably to shake the branches or knock the weight off with a broom or something similar,” Purcell said. “This may cause worse damage or actually cause the branch to snap off.” Purcell said that upright evergreens, like arborvitae and juniper, and clump trees like birch tend to suffer the worst damage.
Second, safely remove broken limbs.
“Broken and hanging branches can be a threat to people and property,” Purcell said. “If a limb breaks off from the weight of ice or snow and remains in the tree canopy, have it removed and the remaining stub properly pruned to the branch collar as soon as weather allows.” Purcell cautioned to be mindful of walking or parking under branches loaded down by snow or ice as they may snap and fall, causing injury or damage.
Third, hire a professional.
“If there is substantial damage to your tree, have an arborist examine damaged branches and limbs for signs of weakness and injury for reparations,” he said. To find an arborist, go to treesaregood.org.
Purcell offered additional tips in the Purdue Extension publication he authored, entitled “Trees and Storms.”
After a storm, be sure to keep safety first. Stay clear and look for dangerous hanging limbs, broken branches and other failures. Be alert for power lines that could be involved with damaged trees. All utility lines should be considered energized and dangerous.
Assess the damage. Review the affected tree or trees to determine the level of injury.
Match skills with the situation when it comes to reparation of damages and restoration. Tree work is dangerous, and many times it is best left to professionals.
Basic cleanup can be helpful in the post–storm response process. Remove downed branches and limbs when it is safe to do so.
It is impossible to protect a tree from all storms or prevent all damage from weather events. However, proper pruning during the growing season can help minimize injury to trees.
“Under no circumstances should a tree be ‘topped’ to prevent wind or ice damage,” Purcell said. “Topped trees produce many small, poorly attached sprouts and as they grow the canopy weight and density is actually increased.” Purcell said additionally that topped branches often develop decay and diseased stems, which further weakens the tree and makes the branches more susceptible to breakage.
So, while topping may seem to make a tree safer, Purcell said it actually increases the potential for storm damage.