Dealing With Trees Damaged by Hurricanes

Hurricane-damaged trees can in turn damage houses and other property. Photo by Eric Kuehler, USDA Forest Service.

Hurricanes bring winds that can exceed 125 miles per hour, heavy rain, and flooding — any or all of which can damage trees. Although some damage can be seen immediately, some effects of structural damage to trees may not become apparent for years after a hurricane.

On the other hand, what may initially seem like mortal damage — all the leaves blown off, for example — may be just temporary. Leaves saturated with saltwater turn brown and look like they’ve been burned. If not hazardous, these trees should be monitored for 6 to 12 months before deciding to cut them.

Downed or weakened trees can be hazardous to people, buildings, and power lines. Storm damaged trees should be assessed for risk as soon as possible after a hurricane or other major storm. Signs that a tree could be a hazard include:

  • New cracks in the lower trunk or large stems split from the tree;
  • Major roots severed or broken, tree partially uprooted;
  • Noticeable tree lean attributable to the storm; and
  • Large limbs broken; most of crown damaged.

If one or more of these conditions are present, consult with a professional arborist as soon as possible. Until the tree damage is addressed, stay clear and keep vehicles and other moveable assets out of range.

Some Tips When Hiring a Tree Service

Beware of scams — unsolicited offers, bargain deals, and out-of-state companies with offers too good to be true. Use a qualified arborist; unqualified workers could get hurt on your property or cause irreparable damage to trees.

Ask for certificates and proof of liability insurance and workers’ compensation. Contact the insurance company to confirm that policies are current.

Ask for references and check them.

Do not use any company that recommends topping.

Sign a written agreement before the work. Never pay in advance.

Landowners with larger stands of trees will need to develop a plan for salvaging damaged timber.

Review guidelines for conducting surveys, evaluating damage, and prioritizing salvage here.

Adapted from: Mississippi homeowners guide: working with trees affected by Hurricane Katrina. Available from Mississippi Forestry Commission (MFC).

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