Restoration of Trees Damaged From a Storm
The Arbor Day Foundation has a very helpful tool available on their website called the “Storm Recovery Kit.” This online resource contains information about how communities and individuals can save damaged trees after violent storms. Before you even get started, they emphasize taking safety precautions and don’t try to do it all yourself! Look up and look down. Be on the alert for downed power lines and dangerous hanging branches that look like they’re ready to fall. Stay away from any downed utility lines-low-voltage telephone or cable lines and even fence wires can become electrically charged when there are fallen or broken electrical lines nearby. Don’t get under broken limbs that are hanging or caught in other branches overhead. And, unless you really know how to use one, leave chainsaw work to the professionals.
After a storm, removing hazards and cleaning tree canopies of broken limbs should be the primary focus. Binoculars can be used to check for broken branches in the upper canopy and cracks along limbs. Trees use energy stored in the wood, so during the clean-up process the least amount of live wood should be removed. Subsequent pruning is suggested 2 years after the damage of a storm occurs, this gives the tree time to recover.
Types of Storm Damage
There are several types of storm damage that occurs to trees: blow-over, stem or branch failure, crown twist, and root failure. Each type is the result of a complex mixture of past maintenance, tree structure and climate.
Small fallen trees should be uprighted and staked as soon as possible so that the roots don’t dry out. Trees that are uprooted in the forest are valuable habitat for wildlife, but we can help restore the number of trees by planting saplings.
Irrigation is important for stressed trees because it will encourage formation of new roots. Salt damage can occur in coastal areas that receive storm surge. These trees require irrigation treatments to remove salts from the soil by flushing with water and/or application of a soluble humate which can buffer the effects of excessive elements, particularly sodium.
Wind damage from storms often strips the leaves from a tree. This interrupts the tree’s ability to photosynthesize and store energy. In response to the damage, a recovering tree will send out sprouts along the top and tips of branches. As the sprouts grow the tree rebuilds its energy reserves, increasing the strength of the tree over time. Recovering trees will sprout excessively, while declining trees have fewer sprouts and leaves.
Proper Tree Care
It is impossible to protect trees from all storm damage; severe weather can damage even healthy trees. Trees are adapted to average wind climate and are vulnerable during severe winds. However, proper care and maintenance of trees and selecting appropriate species and planting locations will result in greater success and longevity. Investing time and money into hiring a tree service to assess damage and perform routine maintenance is highly recommended. However, if that is not an option, it would be wise to familiarize yourself on proper tree care.