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Get your trees ready for storm season!

Now is the time to prepare.

Trees are one of a homeowner’s most important assets.  They provide beauty to our neighborhoods enhancing  property values, shade to cool our homes reducing our energy bills and plentiful oxygen for us to breathe.  Trees also mitigate climate change by trapping greenhouse gasses and provide critical habitat for birds and wildlife.  To remain safe and healthy, our trees need periodic pruning to improve their ability to tolerate high winds.  Now is the time to prepare them for the upcoming hurricane season.

Here are some tips for preparing your trees:
1.  Remove severely damaged and potentially hazardous trees from your property.

If you have trees that are in poor condition, leaning towards buildings or other targets needing protection, consider having them removed.  An ISA certified arborist can assist you in making removal/remediation decisions.  Some signs to look for are large dead or dying branches, damaged or decaying roots and cracks or rot in the trunk.  Trees that were seriously abused in the past by being hat-racked (topped) or severely over lifted should be evaluated, as these may be prone to breakage during high winds.

Hat Racked Tree

Following topping (hat-racking), sprouts that form on decaying branch stubs become weakly attached limbs which tend to break off during high winds.

Weak branch attachment in a hat-racked tree.

Cross section view of previously hat-racked limb (stub) with weakly attached re-growth.

An over-lifted tree becomes dangerous.

This tree is over lifted with too much of the lower and interior canopy removed.  Note the barren branches have little taper and are prone to breakage during high wind events.

2.  If you hire a professional tree service

Just as with electrical, construction, plumbing and other work done on our homes, there are established industry guidelines and municipal codes that must be followed to ensure quality work and a safe product.  Be sure that your tree service does quality work (get referrals) and is licensed and insured.   Ask to see their credentials, just as you would any other professional.  Improper tree pruning is a liability for you and your family.

3.  Correcting structural defects in the canopy is key to improving wind tolerance

Many of the trees that broke apart during past hurricanes did so because of poor structure such as co-dominant leaders with bark pinched (included) inside the crotches.

This common defect can be corrected with several rounds of structural pruning.  The procedure involves shortening co-dominant leaders and in some situations completely removing them over time until the tree has one strong, dominant trunk.

For more information go to:

This will eliminate co-dominant branching that can contribute to tree failure during storms.

(Please click on this link for more in-depth information on how to do this.)

Good structure makes safe trees

Which tree do you think will survive the next storm? (See photos below.) The tree on the top with the single dominant trunk and well spaced scaffold branches or the tree on the bottom with two co-dominant leaders?

Following these guidelines is no guarantee that your trees come through future storms without any damage.  However, such management practices improve their chances for survival, reduce potential liability and decrease overall maintenance and replacement costs.

Co-Authored by:  Dr. Michael Orfanedes, and Donna Torrey

7 Comments on “Get your trees ready for storm season!

  1. I have a Royal ponciana tree in my back yard, we been leaving in this house for 35 year years. I believe the tree was planted in 1953. After a bad hurraicane two years ago A huge branche was destroy by the wind, so after cutting it ,we have termite on.
    I need despeetly advice what to do best. We were told to cut the tree complety.
    I cannot imagine doing so, I deeply love this tree. Please can you advice us who can help to evaluate what is the best what to do.
    Thank you very much
    Mrs Schipani

    • Hi Alice,
      I agree that Royal Poinciana are one of the most beautiful trees in the world, and you should make every effort to save this tree. How were the termites identified? By a tree professional? I would need you to send me some photos of this to try and make a ID and maybe would have to bring in a sample to be a positive ID. Please give me more information and photos, and please, don’t cut it down! Termites can be treated. Email:
      Thank you!

  2. Excellent article Donna and Mike.


  3. Good job guys, as long as people read more than the title.

  4. Good points and tips. It is sometimes frustrating as an arborist when we explain to our customers about how we prune, and why. I try to advise my clientele that a healthy tree is always a safer tree. Also, as an industry expert, it’s your responsibility to uphold the ANSI 300 standards, and it’s your license on the line. Keep up the good work; our trees need more folks in the industry like yourself. Thank you.