Before the storm:
1. Conduct a pre-storm assessment of your property and identify trouble spots before a storm hits.
Some potential hazards to look for on your property:
- Cracks in tree trunks or major limbs
- Hollow, aged and decayed trees
- One-sided or significantly leaning trees
- Branches leaning more than 45 degrees over the roof
- Anything in close proximity to utility lines
- Shelf-like fungus or mushrooms
- Trees with dangerous leans
- *Note: Several of these features may suggest that the tree may be suffering from a condition called heart rot or possibly buckling under its own weight, and causing danger.
2. Take measures to prevent damage.
After assessing possible hazards to your property, you and/or your arborist may need to take any number of measures to limit potential damage.
- Remove dead, diseased or damaged limbs
- Have leaning trees inspected and consider removing those with large cavities
- Prune branches too close to your house and over the street
- Check your gutters, and remove debris to prevent water damage. Many STIHL blowers can use optional gutter attachments.
- Call a professional to assess and potentially remove any within close proximity to utility lines; DO NOT attempt to do this yourself
During the storm:
3. Don’t try to be a hero.
Your property is not more important than your life and the lives of your loved ones. Prepare in advance, follow guidelines for evacuations or sheltering in place and don’t hesitate to get assistance prior to cleaning up storm debris.
After The Storm:
4. Put safety first.
It’s important to protect yourself as well as your property.
- Be on the alert. Stay away from utility lines and keep an eye out for dangers both up in hanging branches and down on damaged trunks.
- Broken limbs may still be lodged in trees, but can easily and unexpectedly fall. Loggers call these “widow-makers.”
- Look for trees leaning against or touching downed phone lines or power lines – a tree in contact with a power line, and the ground at the base of the tree, can be energized and dangerous.
- If you’re skilled enough to do work yourself, suit up properly, wear the proper attire and protective equipment. Many times we see newscasts of people wearing shorts and flip-flops to clean up storm damage; this type of attire is not appropriate for this type of work. Work safe; Be safe!
- When in doubt, call a professional arborist or logger.
5. Evaluate tree damage.
Evaluate your trees carefully by asking the following:
- Other than storm damage, is the tree basically healthy?
- Are major limbs and/or the leader branch still remaining?
- Is at least 50 percent of the tree’s crown still intact?
- Are there remaining branches that can form a new branch structure?
If you answer “yes” to the majority of these questions, there is a good chance the tree can be saved. When in doubt, consult a professional.
6. Take Steps to Repair Minor Damage & Debris.
- Remove any broken branches or stubs still attached to the tree.
- Remove jagged remains of limbs to reduce the risk of decay agents entering the wound.
- Smaller branches should be pruned at the point where they join larger ones.
- Resist the urge to over-prune. Don’t worry if the tree’s appearance is not perfect.
7. Do not try to do it all yourself.
Evaluate what you can handle and what a professional should deal with – anything not on the ground should definitely be handled by a professional.
Some of these things could be a threat to your life, so it makes sense to have a professional do the work if you’re not absolutely confident in your skills or if any of the below situations apply:
- Large limbs are broken or hanging or overhead chainsaw work is needed.
- If a tree is uprooted or downed, it can create an unnatural pattern of pressure points and tension. A chainsaw operator may be in severe danger if attempting to cut a tensioned limb or trunk (called a “springpole”) – it may have an extremely violent, catapult-like reaction.
- If branches are too close or touching utility lines, report immediately to your local utility company. NEVER attempt to move downed utility lines.
- Any task you have not been properly trained to handle or are uncomfortable undertaking.
8. Document, Document, Document!
You’ll need to document the damage that has been done by the storm as soon as possible, particularly if your homeowner’s insurance only covers certain types of damage. Take photos of the damage; keep receipts, emails and correspondence from your insurance agent and contractor(s).
Be sure to document any potential problems, such as mold, crumbling drywall, roof damage, structural damage or exposed power lines. It’s a good idea to have pictures on file of the normal state of your house, so when the storm hits you have documentation of the pre-disaster condition of your home and property.