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Hurricanes and Trees

A hurricane can cause large scale damage, quickly changing our backyards and communities. Homes and buildings may be damaged or destroyed, power lines down, and trees broken and torn. In the wake such change, people often experience a deep sense of loss and deep desire to immediately fix the what is troubling them.

The loss or damage to the trees in our backyards and parks, that have shaped the visual character of our local landscape can be shocking. The initial impulse is to get outside and do something. But the prudent course is to be patient. Trees are resilient and many recover with proper care and time. Many of the tree species found in our yards and along our streets have developed over thousands of years to deal with local storm intensities and cycles. Despite the urge to do something immediately, try to be patient, and thoughtful. As long as there isn’t an immediate physical risk from a damaged tree, or if you are unsure about its condition, keep the tree and watch of continuing signs of recovery or decline.

Safety is the first major concern for all of us. Stay away from downed power lines and beware of broken tree limbs,  theyt may be ready to fall. Never use pruning equipment near utility lines. Downed utility lines should be reported to utility companies or 911 operators.

Be patient with government agencies, and allow them time to organize their resources and prioritize work. After a major storm, government agencies, utility companies and their contractors, and private tree service companies must focus first on dealing with immediate threats to life and property.  After the removal of hazards, the major task of debris removal from the storm, including the removal of damaged branches and sometimes entire trees will begin. Remember that street trees, usually those between the streets and sidewalks, are typically the responsibility of the City or County.

Limbs, branches, and trunks of trees that have fallen on the ground are often under tremendous pressure, and are extremely dangerous to cut and remove. In such a situation a novice chainsaw operator is taking a great risk in personal safety. Unless you are very well trained and experienced it is best to contract with a qualified arborist to do the work.  They will have the equipment and know-how to safely remove fallen trees and broken limbs with an eye towards saving trees. Even for them this is a most dangerous operation.

Choose an arborist wisely, the wrong decision will have long-term consequences for your trees and may pose future risks to your personal property.  Watch out for scam artists. After major storms, it is not uncommon for people claiming to be tree specialists or arborists to go door-to-door offering their services to trim or remove trees. Unfortunately, many such individuals have little or no training. Don’t become a victim, make sure you are dealing with a reputable arborist or tree care company. Information on how to find and hire an arborist can be found on the University of Florida IFAS website at https://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/woody/arborist.shtml

For a full review of recovery options following a major storm visit the University of Florida’s Hurricane Recover Program website at https://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/treesandhurricanes/

Storm Recovery Tips for Trees from The National Arbor Day Foundation

– Safety First – Beware of utility lines and hazardous overhanging limbs.

– Be Patient – If a tree does not represent a hazard, take the time necessary to be sure it gets proper care and make a final decision about it in a few weeks or months.

– Hire a Qualified Arborist – If a tree is large, requires high climbing, is leaning against wires, buildings or other trees, or if wires or structures are endangered, let a professional do the job.

– Take Heart – Trees are amazingly resilient, and the trees of other communities have recovered over time.