Heat, humidity and summer thunderstorms are part of living in the Tallahassee area. Many afternoons, the sound of thunder means a quick rain shower at work that may or may not extend to watering your flowers at home. When the winds pick up and the lightning strikes close, we know summer storm damage ranges from possible to likely.
Lightning Facts for You and Your Trees
Did you know that a strike of lightning can produce temperatures of 50,000 degrees? Lightning is one of the most dramatic and dangerous forces of nature, for people and trees. The U.S. Forest Service suggests staying sheltered for 30 minutes after you hear the last clap of thunder and staying low to the ground away from trees and water if caught outdoors.
FACT #1: Do NOT seek shelter under a tree during a thunderstorm. Falling limbs and lightning strikes are a real danger when near trees.
Lightning takes the path of least resistance, making tall trees a natural target. Depending on the tree, its water content and the intensity of the strike, damage can vary from minimal scarring to the tree exploding. Imagine the 50,000 degrees of a strike combining with a high water content tree and you have an eruption, destroying a tree. The electrical charge of a strike also travels through the roots and may impact nearby plantings.
FACT #2: Trees struck by lightning may survive, depending on severity of strike and after care.
If your tree has been struck by lightning but is still intact, arborists suggest waiting to see if the tree recovers. Even if scarring occurs, the tree can regenerate root systems and heal around lost bark. Be sure to water and care for the tree as normal, consulting an arborist with any questions about fertilization or pruning.
FACT #3: Do not use wound sealer on exposed bark or pruned areas. It may seal in pests or bacteria that may harm the tree.
Cleaning Up Summer Storm Damage Safely
After the thunder recedes and it is safe to venture out after a summer storm, there is usually some debris scattered across the yard. During more severe storms, high winds can cause branches to fall or weak spots in trees to split. If heavy rain has occurred, uprooted trees become a possibility, falling across streets, fences and houses.
SAFETY TIP #1: The CDC suggests taking extra care when cutting or moving debris bent or caught under something else. A branch may snap or cause other materials to shift, fall or break unexpectedly, putting you at risk of injury.
Tree Damage and Debris
After a severe storm you may find one or more branches hanging from a tree. It can be tempting to grab hold and pull, but the odds are good that pulling from the ground will bring down more than the single branch. If a tree service is on the way, let them take care of partially fallen branches. They will likely assess the situation from above, cutting the limb away from the tree and dropping in smaller pieces to avoid additional damage to the trunk.
If a limb or tree has fallen directly on your house, contact the emergency number of your trusted tree service. Take what pictures you can in case they can be used later for insurance, maintaining a distance from the house if the structural integrity is in question. In the instance that power has also been impacted or standing water is involved, move cautiously to a clear area.
SAFETY TIP #2: Do not approach any downed power lines or drive through standing water in their vicinity. If lines are tangled in a downed tree, do not attempt to move or cut any art of the tree. The power company will need to inspect the lines and cut any power feeds before tree removal can be attempted.
Tree Recovery after a Storm
When limbs break away from a tree, subsequent damage should be assessed for the continuing health of the tree. If multiple branches have broken, opening the canopy and exposing the trunk, sun scald could become a concern. When dealing with a damaged tree, talk to a certified arborist to determine the best course of action going forward. It is best to take care of any storm related issues as soon as possible before pests or decay set in, creating a future hazard.
Questions to ask an arborist about storm damaged trees.
- Is the tree damaged beyond repair or is it likely to heal with time?
- Is this a desirable tree to keep? If the damage is significant or the tree is near the end of life, it may the best time to remove and start anew.
- Will the tree maintain its shape?
- Did the trunk/bark experience too much damage? The tissue that is directly behind the bark is the part that handles moisture and nutrients back and forth from root to leaves. Too much damage under the bark will hinder survival.
Summer storm season in Tallahassee is also hurricane season. Many homeowners are proactive by performing preventative maintenance themselves or contracting a licensed and insured tree service company. No plan is failsafe when it comes to Mother Nature, but healthy trees tend to resist summer storm damage better. Remember, when a storm does occur, always make safety your top priority.
At Miller’s Tree Service, we have been through years of storm recovery in the Big Bend area. We have also sent crews outside of our usual service area to help other communicates in need. Each year, we hope for a quiet summer storm and hurricane season – and are prepared when storms leave behind damage and debris. We have five certified arborists to help you assess the health of your trees or plan for new ones. Call us for the emergency of a downed tree or schedule pruning and fertilization anytime at 850.894.TREE (8733).
For more information on preparing your trees for hurricane season, see our 5 point tree plan here.