We are barely into the hurricane season and the activity level is off and
This year, the season began early when tropical storms Alberto and Beryl developed several days before the official start, the first such occurrence since the 1908. Debby formed on June 23, the first time ever that four storms formed before July since reliable record keeping began in 1851.
As we approach the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew, I’m reminded of the eight months of tree related clean-up work that followed. Many people would argue that the force (category 5), direction and size of Hurricane Andrew made it a was a once-in-a-life-time storm and, therefore, the degree of associated tree damage was rare. The problem with that argument is that a little more than six years ago we encountered hurricanes Katrina and Wilma, categories 1 and 2 respectively, as they passed over Miami. They left in their wakes a solid six months of tree-related clean up.
“One thing remembered by people who have experienced hurricanes is the downed trees,” said Max Mayfield, the former director of the National Hurricane Center. “I’m not comfortable handling a chain saw, so I hire professionals.”
The severity of damage to trees as a result of strong winds has as much to do with an individual tree’s condition as it does with the strength of the wind it is subjected to. When a tree is properly and professionally trimmed for wind exposure the degree of damage is dramatically reduced. The “art” of preparing a tree for such conditions is not something that just any tree trimmer is familiar with, although many think they are. Most trees have similar needs with regard to “maintenance” trimming, but many South Florida trees have unique trimming needs when being prepared for our storm season. The general objective is obvious, trim the tree in a manner that allows wind to blow through with as little resistance as possible, while maintaining the overall natural growth habit of the tree. The process is much easier said than done.
A professional trimmer who has experienced the results of previous storm damage and has had the chance to analyze how and why specific branches broke or why a tree was uprooted learns from that experience and applies the knowledge to subsequent trimming. Live oak trees and other hardwoods make up a large percentage of our local trees and those that sustained damage following hurricanes Andrew, Katrina and Wilma were almost exclusively those that did not undergo preparation trimming. Even some of the trees that were trimmed sustained substantial damage because they were not “properly” trimmed.
A classic example is that an inexperienced trimmer may think he is preparing an oak tree by cutting and removing some interior branches and/or shortening some canopy branches, all with the idea it provides a more “open” tree for the wind. What that non-professional doesn’t know is that where the tree had a single branch that he cut may very well result in growing multiple new branches from that cut point, creating even more of a problem than the original single branch posed.
Which branch is to be cut, how it is cut and where along the branch it is cut are all techniques that distinguish a professional from the lower priced alternative, the inexperienced trimmer. Trees need proper and professional preparation, and should be added to the “to do” list of storm season preparation, along with having a supply of canned food, water, batteries and a generator.
Certainly preparing your trees for the storm season is more costly than some extra food and water; however, when properly prepared, not only are you addressing liability concerns and reducing risk exposure, but you are also extending the interval between trimming sessions. When trimmed by the lower-priced alternative, your trees can very well be in greater need a year later than they were to begin with.
One fact is certain, the cost of tree preparation is significantly less than the cost of tree cleaning up following a storm, not to mention the cost of repair, replacement and/or clean up of items (screen enclosures, automobiles, fences, etc.) damaged by broken limbs or a fallen tree.
“If you do have tree trimming that needs to be done,’ says Mayfield, a customer of One Two Tree, “don’t wait until a hurricane is headed our way to do it. Downed trees or limbs can block roadways and driveways, fall on homes and buildings and, at times, even injure or kill people.”
It’s not too late to add tree trimming to your “to-do” list!
Rick Barocas is a Certified Arborist with One Two Tree/Pest Free, Inc. For more information, call 305-267-1426 or go to www.onetwotree.com.