Storms can leave even the most pristine landscape in disarray; uprooted trees, broken branches, and stray debris are common post-storm eyesores. To prevent this, evaluate your landscape for potential hazards. Even innocuous tree limbs can prove dangerous in bad weather, so be thorough in your assessment.
If your trees exhibit the following warning signs, they may be at risk:
- Wires in contact with tree branches are dangerous. Trees may become energized when they are contacted by electric wires.
- Dead or partially attached limbs hung up in the higher branches can fall and cause damage or injury.
- Cracked stems and split branches can cause catastrophic tree failure.
- Hollow or decayed areas on the trunk or main limbs, or mushrooms growing from the bark indicate a decayed and weakened trunk.
- Peeling bark or gaping wounds in the trunk also indicate structural weakness.
- Fallen or uprooted trees exert pressure on other trees beneath them.
- Heaving soil at the tree base is a potential indicator of an unsound root system.
Remember: A tree is a living thing, and its integrity and stability change over time. Don’t assume a tree that has survived ten severe storms will necessarily survive an eleventh! Regular maintenance is necessary to ensure the safety of your trees and property.
Sometimes, no matter how much you prepare your trees for a storm, you’ll still find it necessary to clean up debris afterward. As a proud homeowner, you may be tempted to perform the clean-up work yourself – but this can be a dangerous undertaking. In many cases, homeowners should seek professional help, especially if the clean-up job requires the use of a chain saw or other dangerous tools.
But even this seemingly droll task comes with its own set of risks. Beware of common clean-up hazards, listed below:
- Overhead or nearby electrical wires create potential hazards and limit the options for tree cutting. Homeowners should never work near power lines.
- Most chain saw work on large limbs or trees requires the experience of a trained operator to prevent injuries. Wood under tension (one or both ends of the fallen tree or branch pinned under other branches or debris) can react unpredictably. Releasing that tension with chain saw cuts is extremely dangerous and can seriously, or fatally, harm the chain saw operator.
- Uprooted root plates or root balls are unstable. Cutting the trunk of a fallen tree from an uprooted plate releases the pressure holding the root plate. The roots are still anchored and may have enough tension to pull the stump and root ball back into the hole. It could suddenly sit back into the root hole, trapping anything nearby underneath it.
- Slopes and uneven footing surfaces are dangerous while operating a chain saw.
- Watch the end of your chain saw! Cutting branches on the ground can cause you to bury the saw bar in the dirt and hit hidden obstacles, causing chain saw kickback.
- Many homeowners injured doing their own tree work were working alone at the time, significantly lengthening emergency response time and hospital stays. If you insist on doing your own post-storm cleanup, always have at least one other person working with you to call for help in case of injury.
But remember: Homeowners should never attempt post-storm tree work if it appears dangerous! It is always safer to hire a professional arborist or tree care company to take care of the post-storm work for you.