Winter winds are on the way | The Evergreen Arborist

Make sure your trees are in good enough shape to weather the winds.

The recent windstorms remind us to think about the approaching storm season if homeowners have concerns about their own trees, the neighbor’s trees or those in a greenbelt or common area of a homeowners association.

The following tips should be considered to ease concerns about the health and safety of trees.

Check 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 or new landscaping activities have altered a tree’s growing environment or if a structural defect is visible. If any of these conditions exist, caution is advised.

Be aware of the location of trees and structures in relation to the direction of 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.

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 and saturated ground conditions.

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

Conduct a hazard assessment. If you are truly 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.

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.

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.

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.

If such solicitors claim to be “arborists,” are they actually certified? If so, they should be able to show proof of certification from the International Society of Arboriculture. There is a difference between having a homeowner’s best interests at heart and that of a tree service that pays a commission to an uncertified “doorbell arborist” to promote their pruning or tree-removal activities.

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 an ISA certified arborist, ISA qualified tree risk assessor and Master Gardener from the Bonney Lake-Sumner area. He provides pest diagnosis, hazardous tree evaluations, small tree pruning and other services for homeowners and businesses. Contact him at 253-863-7469 or email at Website: