Before and After a Storm
Post-Storm First Aid
Do not try to do it all yourself - If large limbs are broken or hanging, or if ladder or overhead chain saw work is needed, it is a job for a professional arborist.
Assess the damages - Evaluate your trees carefully by asking the following questions: Other than the storm damage, is the tree basically healthy
and vigorous? Are major limbs or the leader (the main upward-trending branch on most trees) branch still remaining? Is at least 50 percent of the tree's
crown (branches and leaves) still intact? Are there remaining branches that can form a new branch structure? If you answered "yes" to the majority of these questions, there is a good chance for complete recovery. For assistance, hire an ISA-Certified Arborist to determine the tree's conditions.
Stand Trees back up - Many trees suffer friction failures that cause the tree's root system to lift out of the ground as the tree leans over.
Uprooted trees are often unnecessarily removed under the mistaken idea that they can not be saved. These trees can often be saved but are very dangerous.
The tension caused by the roots still in the ground can cause the tree to snap back. Consult the service of a certified arborist if you are unsure about
performing this work.
Beware of Price Gouging - Sometimes less credible tree services will take advantage of storm victims. Good tree work by qualified professionals
is not inexpensive; however, poor work no matter the price paid can cost you a great deal. A reasonable price for professional tree work in Florida ranges
from $75-$125 per worker per hour. This price includes liability and workman's compensation insurance, as well as bucket trucks and equipment. It does
not include heavier specialty equipment that may be needed such as cranes, loaders, etc., or hardware that may be installed in the tree.
Financial Recovery - Be aware that tree losses to your landscape, whether large or small, may be deductible from your taxes. Two steps must
be taken to be able to claim this deduction:
1. Document the tree damage/loss with photos and an evaluation from a certified arborist who has experience appraising trees. Such a certified arborist
will be able to provide you with an estimated dollar value for your loss.
2. Consult the services of a tax professional.
Future Pre-Storm Preparation:
The time to prepare your trees for tropical storms is long before hurricane season. Steps such as pruning trees right before a storm can lead to hasty or improper tree care.
Look for potential hazards - Investigate the condition of your trees. You or a certified arborist should look for damage such as cracks in the trunk or
major limbs; hollow, aged, and decayed trees; hanging branches; improperly formed branches; one-sided or significantly leaning trees; and branches that may
potentially rub the house or dangle precariously over the roof. Also check for the presence multiple trunks joined at a narrow angle of attachment with bark
trapped inside the crotch. This condition known as "included bark" is one of the most common causes of tree failure in Florida.
Know your tree species - Some species are more prone to storm damage than others due to structural weakness, brittle wood and/or poor root systems.
In South Florida, we have recently seen extensive damage to Acacia, Bischofia, Royal Poinciana, Australian pine, Orchid Tree, Yellow Tabebuia, Cassia and
Ficus. These may be species that you should think twice about before replanting.
Do not "top" your trees - Untrained individuals may urge you to cut back all of the branches, on the mistaken assumption that it will help avoid
breakage in future storms. However, professional arborists say that "topping," the cutting of main branches back to stubs, is extremely harmful and unhealthy
for your trees. Stubs will often grow back weakly attached to branches that are higher in the canopy and are more likely to break when a storm strikes. Also,
topping will reduce the amount of foliage on which the tree depends for the food and nourishment needed for re-growth. A topped tree that has already sustained
major storm damage is more likely to die than repair itself.
Prune properly and use best management practices - Prior to storm season have your trees properly pruned. That means thinning out the upper canopy to reduce
the "sail effect" and having the tree periodically structure-pruned to develop a strong central leader. Structure pruning helps reduce the growth of competing multiple
trunks also known as co-dominant leaders which are prone to breaking out during high wind events. Also, make sure you provide your trees with the proper irrigation and
fertilization that they need and do not apply to much mulch to the base of the tree. Three inches of mulch is plenty and keep it several inches away from the trunk to
reduce the likelihood of decay.
Protect your assets - Trees may increase property value by up to 20%. Find out if your homeowner's insurance will cover any damage your landscape may sustain
due to unnatural causes, and include the total value of your trees when listing your assets for coverage. A certified arborist can provide an estimated value by
inspecting your trees.
Trees are dynamic living things that require proper care. Hiring a certified arborist who can assist you with pre-storm inspections and post-storm repairs can help avoid the unnecessary loss of your trees.
Information taken from the Florida Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture
Tree Services / Certified Arborist List (PDF)
Recommended Residential Tree List (PDF)