Consult a professional when trees fall near homes, power lines
Home and property owners should seek professionals if they suspect trees weakened by drought, disease, insects and age might give way to powerful storms, with the potential for damage or death.
Of the seven fatalities in Arkansas following the April 15 storms, six attributed to trees falling on homes.
"A strong storm blows by and suddenly, the tree fails--or so it seems," said Tamara Walkingstick, associate director of the Arkansas Forestry Resources Center, part of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. "The point is that it's often the result of a prior defect or problem."
Walkingstick said the potential for the tree to have limb breakage, trunk breakage or fall is a function of tree's condition.
"Although strong winds can uproot healthy trees, trees with rot, dead tops, excessive leans and exposed roots are more likely fail in even the slightest wind than their healthy counterparts," she said.
"Trees are very good at trying to compartmentalize wounded tissue but they don't actually heal," Walkinsgtick said. "Fungal diseases can get established in a tree wound and slowly rot away the wood inside a tree. Often these wounds and defects are not apparent to the casual observer."
Certified arborists are trained to recognize potential hazard trees, she said.
While water can play a role in trees falling by softening the ground around the roots, excess water does not soften the tree's wood, leading to breakage.
"The basic biological function of water update does not lead to tree failure," Walkingstick said. "Water doesn't create rot: Wounds and diseases do."
When trees fall around homes and power lines, always consult a professional.
"We always recommend that homeowners hire tree service professionals: not the guy who shows up with a chain saw and no credentials right after a storm," she said. "Those credentials should include licensing and bonding at the very least, and a professional certified arborist is preferred."
For more information on forestry, contact your county Extension office or visit www.uaex.edu.