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Wind & Tree Damage

March 18, 2016

Updated 10/13/2016: As we enter a potentially historic stormy few days in the Puget Sound region that likely will include wind tree damage, we’re focusing on preparing for the storm. This means no new blog post is coming on Friday morning. We’re getting our emergency supplies together (like a solar/crank radio, candles, battery powered lamps and flashlights, water, fuel and a pantry filled with easy-access food). Too, we’re checking our garden for potential fail points — like broken branches that we can remove now. And, we’re charging our electronics, piling up extra blankets and making sure our first aide kits are fully stocked. Hopefully, our preparations won’t prove necessary, but at times like this we’d rather be ready for whatever Mother Nature may blow our way.

Are you ready?

Original post from 3/18/2016 follows…

Wind tree damage is everywhere in Seattle right now. Last weekend, following drenching downpours to our already saturated soils, we clocked 60+mph winds that tore through town like a vengeance.

Soggy soils + wind = danger!

Trees toppled. Cars were crushed. Lives were lost. And, we’re still cleaning up after the mess.

Root pancakes of uprooted trees.

When wind roars, trees may topple, shed twigs or even snap into pieces that fly through the air causing all sorts of damage. Here Bob stands on the trunk of a small uprooted tree. The enormous root pancake of a giant tree-fall is behind him. When trees like these topple in a remote forest location, it may not be as concerning as when trees crash down in urban settings.

If you have trees in your garden, consider this your reminder to look up into them for broken branches that become dangerous flying spears in heavy winds. And, look down at the root zone for signs of weakness. And, if you’re in doubt about your ability to recognize potential problems, get in touch with us or hire a certified arborist near you for help.

plum tree stump

This thundercloud plum stump is all that remains of the tree that toppled in the wind. In early spring, trees are weighty with new growth & lots of water pulled from the roots. The added top weight contributes to the likelihood they’ll fall. Super soggy soil never helps either.
(Plus, these were poorly planted years ago, which also leads to failure like this.)

Nobody can promise you’ll never have a problem with trees in wind, but waiting to make a call when the winds are roaring through the walls of your neighbor’s living room after the top of your pine tree flies half a block and through their roof, well, nobody wants to make those calls. (And, yes, one of my co-horts got this call after her client went through almost exactly this scenario last week in the wind.)

So, what can you look for yourself?

Fir hanger in front garden

A nearby fir tree dropped this relatively small hanger after the wind storm. Although wind often cleans trees of these kinds of branches, sometimes it creates new hangers that can be a falling hazard at any moment. So look up now & do your clean up!

Douglas Fir with Hanger

Look up into big or small trees for torn, broken or caught branches. Sometimes these look obviously dead. Sometimes they look alive if hanging very awkwardly.
Not sure what you should see in this image? Check the next one…

Hanger on Doug Fir in Focus

Look closely at the top of the in-focus part of this tree. See the tear? If you look closely, you’ll also see a very large, long branch hanging from it. This is referred to as a “hanger” & they can make lots of trouble when they fall (or fly through the air on the wind.) Removing a hanger may be a job best left to a professional arborist.

wind blown tree

Ooops! A few days before the wind storm, we had this tree root pruned in place ahead of moving it. Although this uprooting is intentional, how this tree suffered illustrates how a tree with poor rooting easily falls in the wind – even when it doesn’t have leaves!

Temporarily weighted down root ball.

As the wind roared, we temporarily weighted the roots of the trees with heavy cinder blocks rather than tying it with a stake, which probably would have caused the top growth of this tree to snap off.  The wind was howling so hard as we worked on the tree that we could barely stand up straight!

Wind blown twigs

Little twigs easily snap in a wind storm, cleaning trees of detritus. Seattle is littered with them now. The good news: bigger nesting birds like crows may clean them up for you.

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