Hurricane safety starts with proper tree inspection

JRC file photo A Lower Merion home is damaged by a fallen tree after a thunderstorm.

While many locals may be reacting to the predicted arrival of Hurricane Sandy, also known as “Frankenstorm,” by going to grocery stores to stock up, it is equally necessary to care for the exterior of the home, most notably any trees.

“As a tree owner, along with enjoying the beauty of a tree, is assuming the risks that come from storm damage,” Daley Tree Company Arborist Chris Miller said Friday. “Hurricanes especially, along with any type of storm, can wreak havoc on our trees.”

Miller suggests that, with Sandy expected to hit the Philadelphia suburbs sometime Sunday night, it is pivotal that residents have their trees checked for symptoms that could cause harmful, even fatal damage.

“The easiest thing to do is to look at the exterior of the tree for large pieces of deadwood and fungal bodies, which can weaken the branches and cause them to fall fairly easily,” he said. “Weak branching tends to be the biggest cause to simple problems.”

Pear trees tend to be the biggest victims of weak branching, according to Miller. Other spots to search for cracks and decay, along with hanging branches, include cracks at the trunk.

“I suggest having your trees evaluated by professional arborists,” Miller said. “What many people don’t know is that all defects are not visible.”

Unlike people, trees cannot speak to communicate the aches and pains they have on the inside, which is why it is important to contact a professional, Miller said, to conduct the diagnosis so that all areas of the tree can be properly treated.

Simply because the professionals are diagnosing symptoms, it doesn’t mean that the solutions cannot be handled by the homeowner.

“It doesn’t matter whether or not we do the work. But we do know what we are looking for,” he said.

To decrease the risk of your tree being damaged by the upcoming hurricane, or “Perfect Storm 2” as it is being called, make sure you remove any hazardous trees or deadwood that you find during your check-up. With weak branches, adding support cables can help prolong the life and stability of the trees.

A fair assessment, Miller added, is to be sure to continue to give your tree proper soil and nutrition, frequent pruning and all the regular maintenance you would have throughout the year, so that when dangerous storms occur, both the homeowner and their trees will be prepared for the battle.

Miller said that the most important item to remember about any homeowner’s trees is that “strong branches, equal strong trees.”

Follow Michael Davalos on Twitter: @michaelidavalos.

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