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Compass issue 12
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Compass is a quarterly publication of the USDA Forest Service's Southern Research Station (SRS). As part of the Nation's largest forestry research organization -- USDA Forest Service Research and Development -- SRS serves 13 Southern States and beyond. The Station's 130 scienists work in more than 20 units located across the region at Federal laboratories, universites, and experimental forests.

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Issue 12 - Science You Can Use!

Homeowners Guide: How to Handle Trees Damaged by Hurricanes

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. On the other hand, what may initially seem like mortal damage—all the leaves blown off—may be just temporary. Leaves saturated with salt water 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.

Hazard Trees

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
  • 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 workmen’s 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.

You can find a qualified arborist using your local phone directory or on the Web at findarborist/findarborist.aspx.

Compensation for Loss of Landscape Value

Insurance, tax credits, and other assistance may be available depending

on your circumstances. To qualify for possible assistance:

  • Photograph damage.
  • Document estimates, descriptions, remedial tree maintenance following the storm, and other pertinent information.
  • Stay in touch with local, State, and Federal Agency representatives, as well as insurance companies and relief organizations.

Timber Salvage Guidelines

Landowners with larger stands of trees will need to develop a plan for salvaging damaged timber. Guidelines for conducting surveys, evaluating damage, and prioritizing salvage can be found online at www.forestpests. org/storm/ or in the table on page 25.

American chestnut seedling. (Photo courtesy of The American Chestnut Foundation)
American chestnut seedling. (Photo courtesy of The American Chestnut Foundation)

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