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Check your trees before the strong winds blow | Go Green

The recent heavy rains and strong winds remind us of what can happen when severe storms strike the Pacific Northwest and cause tree failures. While such an intense storm was a bit earlier than usual, it served as a reminder that trees of concern should be checked out before the arrival of the typical winter weather.

Homeowners concerned about tall trees around their residences and neighborhoods can begin to take some important precautions before the storm season arrives. The following tips should be considered to ease concerns about the health and safety of their trees.

1. Survey your own trees. Trees should be assessed to determine if there has been recent breakage of large branches or tops, if clearing has exposed trees to high winds, if construction activity has altered a tree’s growing environment or if a structural defect is visible.

If any of these conditions exist, a hazard assessment by a qualified professional would be prudent.

Be aware of the location of trees and structures in relation to the direction of the prevailing winds. In the Puget Sound area winds tend to originate from the south or southwest. However, local conditions may alter the direction. For example, some of the strongest winds in the Buckley and Enumclaw areas originate from the east or northeast.

2. Pay particular attention to recent tree failures. Trees that fall and expose their root balls often have a root disease. When the loss of anchoring roots reaches a critical point, they no longer will support a tree during severe weather.

Old stumps and root balls can often provide clues as to what caused a tree to fall. If a root disease is discovered, adjacent trees may be infected since the diseases usually spread by root-to-root contact. Suspect standing trees can be inspected by a trained eye to determine if a root rot is present.

3. Conduct a hazard assessment. If you truly are concerned about a tree’s safety, an inspection by a certified arborist or tree risk assessor will help to identify any structural, health or environmental issues that may render a tree “hazardous.”

While it is impossible to predict if, when or what kind of failure may occur, a tree’s long-term health and safety can be evaluated. In the majority of the hundreds of assessments I have performed, little or no action has been recommended unless a root disease or structural defect is discovered.

4. Pay attention to weather forecasts. Forecasts for most windstorms generally have been on the mark. Often, forecasters will predict when and where severe gusts may be anticipated. Interestingly, many strong gusts often happen at night.

5. Consider altering your lifestyle for a few hours. Many residents tell me they sleep in basements or carry on activities in sections of the home that are located away from trees in their yards when severe conditions are forecast.

6. Beware of “doorbell arborists.” I have often been asked for a second opinion about recommendations made by individuals who canvass neighborhoods soliciting tree work. In nearly all cases, a different perspective was provided that saved trees and thousands of dollars for homeowners.

Fortunately, few residents are injured in their homes by falling trees. But we have all heard about close calls. So if you are concerned about trees during severe weather, consider the above steps to prepare for the approaching storm season.

Dennis Tompkins is a certified arborist, certified hazard tree risk assessor and Master Gardener from the Bonney Lake-Sumner area. Contact him at 253-863-7469 or email at dlt@blarg.net. Website: evergreen-arborist.com.

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