Winter storms

Winter storms

Homeowners in the Pacific Northwest know the damage a severe storm can cause. Snow, ice, rain and winds can wreak havoc on many trees in Oregon landscapes.

Nonetheless, arborists usually advise homeowners and community leaders to use caution when dealing with a storm's aftermath. That's because there are two common mistakes people make when trying to respond to storm damage. The first is trying to save trees that are far too damaged to retain, and the second is using detrimental pruning techniques on trees that need just minor pruning,

Pruning vs. topping: maintaining a safe and healthy tree

Topping — the practice of removing large branches and tops of trees — is a common but harmful practice often carried out after winter storms. This is unfortunate, as topping causes decay and sets the tree up to become hazardous. Compared with trees that retain their normal branch structure, topped trees are much more likely to break or fall in a storm.

The best approach following severe storms

Taking the right action after trees have been damaged by a storm can make the difference between giving trees a good chance of survival or losing them unnecessarily. Properly selecting a qualified arborist is key.

Here are a few tips that can help you locate a tree-service company to assist you with assessing storm-damaged trees:

  • Beware of people or companies that just show up at your door; their low prices may ultimately cost you more money in the long run. Most reputable companies have truck signs, business cards and even uniforms that represent a professional level of service. Ask for references and take your time to select a reputable company.
  • Hire a company that's bonded and insured.
  • Be forewarned: The fact that someone has a business license doesn't guarantee they have the tree knowledge required to do the job correctly. Hire a certified arborist.

Certified arborists must pass a certification exam administered by the International Society of Arboriculture, the professional society of arborists. If you're in doubt about credentials, the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the ISA maintains a list of certified arborists for hire on their website at www.pnwise.org

Cause and effect

Remember, there's usually a reason for a tree's failure. Trees that have been topped in the past, have had their roots cut close to the trunk or have internal decay from poor pruning all are good candidates for becoming hazardous during a storm.

Valuable shade trees can take years to replace

Trees provide many benefits: cleaner air and water, wildlife habitat, shade, aesthetics and higher property values. Just because your tree is tall doesn't necessarily mean it will fail. Every major storm produces tree casualties, but if your tree has been well cared for, it should get through winter without hurting you or your home.

Be careful not to overreact. Avoid removing valuable shade trees that are still sound and can take years to replace.

Cynthia Orlando is a certified arborist with the Oregon Department of Forestry.

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