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Arkansans deal with major storms several times per year in every season. Once power
is restored after a storm and clean up initiated, land and homeowners can begin to
assess damage to their trees.
There is no need for landowners and homeowners to pay a premium for services in the
first few weeks after the storm. In the case of landscape trees, cleanup and tree
trimming doesn't have to be done immediately unless life or property are threatened.
Assessing Landscape Tree Damage
Common Types of Storm Damage to Landscape Trees
Does Tree Topping Help?
Planting New Landscape Trees
Salvaging Woodland Trees after the Storm
Storm damage to landscape trees can range from major to minor.
While minor injuries seldom result in permanent damage to the tree, severe injuries
can increase a tree's susceptibility to insect and disease attack ultimately killing
the tree. Damage to landscape trees should therefore be properly treated and repaired
to maintain the health of the tree. You as a homeowner can treat some types of damage.
Other more serious damage should be treated by a tree specialist. A tree specialist
should treat other more serious damage especially if extensive bracing, cabling or
removal of large branches is required. As always, never try to remove branches or trees from utility lines. Let the professionals do it. As with all things, there is a right and a wrong way
to repair storm‑damaged trees.
Major repair will undoubtedly require the use of a chain saw and climbing equipment.
Unless you are experienced in the use of such equipment and comfortable working off
the ground, it may be best to have the work performed by a competent professional.
The names of qualified firms can be obtained from local nursery workers. Also, look
for listings of professionals under "Tree Service" in when searching. Make sure that
they carry proper liability and workman's compensation insurance before allowing them
to begin work on the job.
To protect your self and your property it's okay to ask for references or qualifications. You might want to hold on to your money until it has been completely earned by the
person you have hired to do a job. Even under critical emergency conditions, complete,
good quality repairs and tree removal must be done or more damage and deterioration
can appear in the future.
Hazard tree inspections offer the best protection against future storm damage. Systematic inspections
and assessments allow you to find and correct defective trees. Sound trees can withstand
stronger winds than defective trees, so during storms the likelihood of tree failure
What is a Certified Arborist?
Find Certified Arborists in your areaInternational Society of Arboriculture
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Storm damage can be rated based on the degree and type of damage.
<< Back to Top
Many people panic after a storm and hire tree service companies to "top" their tree.
Although a common practice, tree topping is not recommended by professional Arborists.
Topping a tree means removing most of the branches from a tree in a unfounded belief
that such a measure will prevent ice or wind damage. All of the smaller branches
are cut in the hope that the branches will therefore not fail. However, tree topping
can create more problems rather than solving them.
To learn more about tree topping, read the article by the Arkansas Urban Forestry Council.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not necessary to treat trunk and limb wounds with
tree paint. Research shows that painted areas can actually lead to increased rot and
decay due to trapped moisture. Following the proper pruning practice of "natural
target pruning" or three-step cutting is the key to treating storm-damaged trees.
Materials from fallen or salvaged trees can be used in several ways.
Care should also be exercised when burning wood scraps. Although wood scraps can be
very good fuel for stoves or fireplaces, some wood is treated with chemicals that
can be toxic when burned. Never burn wood scraps that have been treated with wood
preservatives or inorganic salts; do not burn treated fence posts for the same reason.
Learn more about Salvaging Timber
Learn more about Chain Saw Safety
Select the right tree for the right place! It helps to know the approximate size
and shape of the tree when mature. This will help determine where to plant it to minimize
pruning because of interference with utility lines, branches rubbing against the house
or other buildings, etc.
A few tree species including Chinese elm, silver maple, sycamore, boxelder, Bradford
Pear, and various poplars have brittle wood, which is easily broken. These rapid‑growing
trees are particularly susceptible to storm damage. Homeowners should be aware of
these characteristics and avoid planting such species close to buildings, utility
lines, etc. where potential damage could occur. If such trees are already growing
in these locations, some preventive practices, such as pruning and bracing, or cabling,
may help reduce the potential of storm damage. This is particularly true as the tree
grows in size and the weight and surface of the leaf and branch area increases.
Finally, consider characteristics of the tree other than the provision of shade, such
as presence of spring flowers, attractiveness to birds, fall color and winter appearance.
Through careful selection, it is possible to obtain species that will contribute to
the overall landscape in more than just one way.
Learn more about Planting Landscape Trees
Planting a Tree or Shrub (FSA6128)
Forest landowners should evaluate whether or not a salvage harvest is necessary before
accepting a salvage price for their timber or making a hasty decision to harvest all
of their forest stand.
One of the problems in salvaging timber immediately following a natural disaster of
any type is that prices fall sharply as the material comes on the market. These prices
can stay depressed for several months.
The following categories of ice-damaged trees will survive for now and can wait to be harvested later when the emergency salvage operations
are over and timber prices back to normal:
Research in the Southeast shows that Loblolly pine trees bent less than 40° from vertical
can recover within two years. Trees bent 40° - 60° recovered but demonstrated varying
amounts of crook and sweep. Only trees bent more than 60° did not recover enough to
make acceptable growing stock. Research in Arkansas also supports these findings.
Do not bang up or damage any standing, live trees because wounds of this type are
ideal for invasion by decay‑causing fungi. In the case of pines, wounded trees become
and remain very attractive to the summer's and next year's bark beetles. Wounded pines
could be the center of a bark beetle buildup next year, so it would be prudent to
avoid damaging pine stems at any time of year.
When only a few trees per acre are damaged, it may not be worth saving them considering
the low prices normally paid for salvaged trees. Salvage prices are often lower not
only because of the crisis situation with so many trees being salvaged but also because
ice or wind-damaged trees may have hidden internal damage, such as ring shake, that
make them useless for lumber.
Hardwood stands can also suffer damage from ice storms. Most mature hardwood trees
with 25% - 75% crown damage will survive, but the growth rate may be reduced. Trees
with greater than 75% crown damage will not survive, except for ash, willow, basswood,
and poplar. Although a tree is severely damaged, it might take several years for that
tree to decline and die.
Some trees might recover during this time. Landowners interested in managing their
hardwood stands for wildlife might consider leaving some damaged or deteriorating
trees to provide snags and cavity trees for wildlife.
In immature and planted hardwood stands, trees bent more than 60° are not likely to
straighten and can be cut down. However, allow bent trees until mid-summer to recover
before taking action. Broken trees and bent trees can be cut to the ground before
they get their leaves in the spring to encourage sprouting from the stumps.
It will take a few years before you will be able to determine the extent of the damage
caused by a major ice storm. During this time, keep a close eye on the forest. Many
different stresses, such as attacks from insects or diseases, can combine to cause
For more help, landowners can call on their local County Extension Office, Arkansas Department of Agriculture - Forestry Division, Arkansas Forestry Association, area forest consultants, and other forest management professionals for advice.