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Caring for injured or storm damaged trees

by: COURTESY OF OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FORESTRY  - This silver maple in Springfield received help from a certified arborist twice: once for a crown restoration to save the tree following a topping by prior property owners, and, five years later, to remove several large limbs that came down during last winter's snow storm. Homeowners in the Pacific Northwest well-know the damage a severe storm event can cause. Snow, ice, rain and winds can wreak havoc on many trees in Oregon landscapes.

The good news here is, when well cared-for, trees are much less likely to fail in a storm. That's why it's important to remember — especially for certain tasks like pruning or emergency tree care — calling on a certified arborist for help is often a good decision. Arborists are knowledgeable about trees, their needs, and proper tree care. A good arborist can also help you identify and remove diseased limbs, branches that are too close to overhead wires, or limbs that have been damaged by storms and adverse weather.

Topping — the practice of removing large branches and tops of trees — is a harmful but common practice often observed following 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. Maintain a safe and healthy tree: prune it, don't top it. Besides topped trees, trees that have internal decay from poor pruning or had their roots cut close to the trunk are other candidates for becoming hazardous during storms.

Tree removal

Perhaps you've noticed a tree near your home or business that looks sickly, is dead or dying, or even appears hazardous. Does that mean the tree needs to go?

Because of trees' many benefits, including providing us with clean air and water, bird and wildlife habitat and increased property values, removing one is a last resort. A certified arborist is your best source of help in assessing the tree, and making a decision that's best for you and your neighborhood.

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

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 critical.

Advice on getting advice

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

* Beware of people or companies that just show up at your door; their low prices may mean poor service, and their actions 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 (ISA), the professional society for arborists. If you're in doubt about credentials, check the yellow pages; the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the ISA also maintains a list of certified arborists for hire on their website: pnwisa.org.

Lastly, remember: trees, especially large, mature trees, provide a community with a multitude of benefits. 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.

For more information about trees and tree care:

Can These Trees Be Saved?

egov.oregon.gov/ODF/URBAN_FORESTS/docs/Other_Publications/CanTheseTreesBeSaved.pdf

Tree First Aid After A Storm - egov.oregon.gov/ODF/URBAN_FORESTS/docs/Other_Publications/TreeFirstAid.pdf