Living in Minnesota, we see our fair share of severe weather. Winds, heavy rain and snow all take a toll on our trees and property. As a property owner, it’s important to understand how to prepare and manage storm damage before it hits. That’s why we’ve created this complete guide to storm damage. We’ve also included information on the dangers of hidden storm damage and the cause of uprooted trees. If you have questions about storm damage specific to your property, contact Ostvig Tree Care for a free consultation.
How to Prepare for Severe Weather
While it’s difficult to predict when severe weather will hit, there are steps you can take well in advance and on the day of to minimize the damage to your property.
Minimize Outdoor Damage
Long before the storm strikes, you will want to perform the following tasks to minimize the headache of your post-storm clean-up. These items are often an afterthought for those who have experienced substantial property damage.
- Prune trees regularly to prevent loose or dead limbs from being picked up by fast winds and causing damage to the property of you and your neighbors. Regular pruning also makes trees more wind resistant. Remove the pruned pieces from your lawn.
- Talk to your insurance company to see what is and is not covered. There are variations on what is covered in the instance of a neighboring tree falling onto your land and the appropriate removal of the debris.
While you should avoid going outside once a storm hits, the following preparation is recommended if a severe storm is expected.
- Write down items (such as lawn chairs, outdoor umbrellas, etc.) that you can bring inside your home. These items could be picked up by the wind and cause damage.
If your property does experience storm damage, contact Ostvig Tree Care. We are a licensed tree contractor with the proper insurance to provide tree removal and a staff with a great deal of experience.
Keep Your Family Safe
- Have a safety plan and discuss it with your family. Establish where you will meet and where you keep your disaster kit. Your disaster kit should contain items such as flashlights and a battery-powered radio.
- Watch for signs of severe weather and keep your eyes and ears open for updates.
- Stay inside and avoid electrical equipment. It is best to unplug electronics in times of excessive lightning.
Managing Property Damage and Tree Care After Severe Weather Hits
From insurance coverage to tree removal, it is important to know what to do after severe weather hits.
Contact your insurance provider before taking action on the removal of any fallen trees. It may surprise you to find out that the owner of the property that the tree lands on is responsible for the damage – not the owner of the tree. If a tree falls onto your vehicle, comprehensive insurance will cover the damage. However, this coverage is optional in Minnesota and many residents find that their insurance does not cover the destruction.
Storms in recent years have resulted in the loss of over 3,000 trees in the Twin Cities. Depending on the damage, a tree may be salvageable. Take extreme care when checking the damage of your trees, especially in the instance of an upright tree which can drop debris well after a storm hits. When considering whether or not to salvage a damaged tree, examine the:
- Existing health and structure
- Remaining crown percentage
- Size and stability of remaining branches
If you decide to salvage a tree, have the damaged pieces removed and prune the tree to aid in the healing process. If the damage is extensive or dangerous to repair, contact a certified arborist – such as Ostvig Tree Care.
Contact your city to find out when debris pick-up will take place. After a large storm, cities will often assign crews to collect trees and brush from the curb. There may also be a yard waste drop-off in your area if you miss the city pick-up, but this is often a hassle because of transport issues.
Ostvig Tree Care provides tree removal when contracted to assist with fallen trees.
Important Post-Storm Safety Tips
- Do not touch downed power lines or objects in contact with downed power lines.
- Although you may be tempted to assess the damage done in your area, take caution. Damage to trees and power lines can come after a storm hits.
- Confirm the safety of your neighbors, particularly if they are elderly or disabled.
The Dangers of Hidden Storm Damage
While tree damage caused by severe weather is often visible, certain types of damage can go undetected. This damage includes:
- Weakened branches that are still attached to the tree but can be easily torn from the tree.
- Detached branches that are caught in the canopy of the tree and blend in with the other branches.
- Cracks in trees with multiple leaders (main trunk) that are high and out of sight.
- Branches that are loose or detached from the tree are dangerous because of the threat they pose to your property.
If weight is added to a weak branch – by ice or snow, for example – it can snap from the tree and crash onto whatever might be below. A weak branch that doesn’t have added weight can snap weeks or months after the initial damage is done, as it is further weakened by less severe weather, such as light rain or wind. Similarly, branches that are detached and caught in the canopy can fall during less severe weather and cause damage.
Cracks in the trunk or limbs of a tree can cause hidden dangers as well. Not only could a crack worsen and cause the tree to split, it can also serve as an entryway for disease or infestation. This puts the health and structure of the tree at risk, if left untreated.
Hidden Below Ground
It is often assumed that the root system of a tree is safe during severe weather since it is below ground. However, given the right conditions, the root system can be put under extreme pressure that it may not be able to handle. When heavy rainfall occurs and the ground has continually high moisture levels, the root system can become oversaturated and fail.
The roots of a tree serve as its anchor and provide it with stability. If severe weather causes a tree to lean, even slightly, the root system will be shifted and strained. When this happens, the tree is more likely to fall during less severe weather. Root damage can sometimes be characterized by heavily packed soil, but this is often overlooked if not performed by a trained professional.
Avoiding Tree Damage
While you may be unable to completely avoid damage, you can certainly take preventative measures to lessen the risk of damage to your landscape. A healthy tree is always less likely to be damaged than one that isn’t properly cared for. To maintain the health of your tree, it is recommended that you consider the following maintenance tactics.
- Pruning Removing unhealthy branches from a tree is a great way to prevent property damage. It may also prevent disease from being spread from the branch to the rest of the tree system.
- Watering If a tree is not properly watered, its root system will be weakened and the health of the overall tree will decline.
- Fertilizing Your trees are stronger when they receive the nutrients they need. Fertilization may be necessary to boost their immunity from the elements.
- Mulching Trees best retain moisture and nutrients when they are properly mulched. Mulch also serves as a barrier from components that may hinder the benefits of any watering and fertilizing you’ve performed.
The Cause and Aftermath of Uprooted Trees
In assessing the storm damage in your area, you may notice that some trees were uprooted and others were not. But why does this damage seem like a game of roulette? There are actually reasons for uprooting; this damage is not chosen by luck of the draw.
Since healthy trees are durable, they are able to flex during strong winds. The opposite is true for unhealthy trees, which can be structurally unsound due to trunk and branch decay or disease. Unhealthy trees should also be pruned to avoid broken branches
Soil that is particularly wet leaves room for movement in the ground. If a tree is young and has shallow roots, it can easily be toppled in windy conditions. Winds that are stronger than normal conditions can also affect how a tree withstands severe weather.
Tree Structure: Above and Below Ground
Aside from the tree’s health, the structure of the tree can affect how the tree reacts in severe weather. The height and diameter of a tree, crown size and root anchorage all contribute to the reaction. One or more of these factors can lead to a tree being uprooted during a storm.
The root anchorage is one of the most elements in the stability of a tree. In some cases, a root system will grow to a very shallow depth. This means that the tree will not be well-rooted and will be easier to topple. On the other hand, trees that are planted too deeply can grow stem-girdled roots. This happens when the flare of the tree is buried and the roots grow upward and wrap around the base of the tree. This causes the roots to compress and weaken. In addition to being a target for severe weather damage, stem-girdled roots will cause a decline in health throughout the tree.
Replanting or Removal
It may be possible to replant the uprooted tree, depending on its health and root damage. Replanting a fallen tree takes care and, in many cases, artificial support. Smaller trees are often salvageable in comparison with larger trees, which can experience massive root damage.