Trees, especially as part of a regional or urban green ecosystem, help create a better quality of life. Urban forests act as green infrastructure that conserves natural ecosystems and sustains clean air and water. They reduce stormwater runoff, cool the urban heat island, reduce air pollution, and provide wildlife habitat.

In the occurrence of the harsh storm, heavy rains or even strong winds, worst case scenario, hurricanes, they can uproot trees and cause severe damages. During bad weather, different risks involved include branches falling and breaking, loosened soil causing uprooting etc.

Hurricanes are some of the worst natural disasters on the planet. They lead to devastating casualties, and take a significant toll on properties each and every year. Also known as typhoons and cyclones in certain regions, hurricanes are gigantic storms that affect the tropical areas of the world. These extreme weather events primarily occur in the South Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, the eastern Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

Even though they do come with their positive aspects, a hurricane primarily has adverse effects. One of the main negative effects is the impact a hurricane has on an ecosystem. A plethora of plants and animals are killed in the advent of a hurricane by the devastating winds, storm surges and flooding. The food chain is wholly disrupted as the population and proportion of animals become imbalanced following such a disaster. Beaches face the biggest brunt of the cyclone; coral reefs, oyster reefs and severe erosion are just a few of the significant impacts every time a hurricane hits the shoreline.

Of all these efects, its effects on trees cannot be particularly overemphasized.

Trees, palms, and shrubs are affected by hurricanes in several ways. Salt damage to roots and leaves, wind damage to trunks and branches, submersion of roots by flooding, and loss of leaf tissue are the most common ailments you’ll see after a catastrophic storm.

Salt damage from flooding and ocean water carried on the wind can infiltrate the soil and affect tree nutrition and water absorption. Salt displaces the nutrients trees need to survive, and excessive salt causes soil aggregates to break down, affecting aeration and water uptake. Salt in the soil will actually pull moisture out of the roots, causing root desiccation. Salt can also scorch or burn leaves, causing premature defoliation and a reduction in new growth for several years.

Strong winds damage tree trunks and branches, causing visible damage, and increasing tree instability. This damage also makes it difficult for trees to absorb nutrients and water, impacting vascular tissue while making them susceptible to boring pests.

When trees’ leaves are lost, they also lose the ability for adequate photosynthesis. This means the tree is unable to create the energy necessary to sustain tree health. This further weakens the tree and makes it less capable of surviving through stressful periods like other storms, excessive heat, prolonged drought, or high winds.

High winds that topple trees and heavy rains that cause flooding are two of the major ways that hurricanes damage a forest. But there are others: the storm surges that commonly accompany hurricanes can cause additional flooding and inundate freshwater habitats, depositing salt and debris inland from the coast. Increased salt levels in soil can have long-term consequences, causing delayed mortality of some tree species, followed by forest decline and dieback. High winds can also cause trees to break, twist and bend, and may cause wounds and root damage.

Typically, people forget the storm once it’s over and they aren’t even bothered to inspect their property for any probable damage that might have been caused by the bad weather conditions. As there may not be an obvious reason to suspect a problem, often people ignore and don’t have their property inspected. The damage that goes unnoticed can compromise the integrity of your home and cause all types of problems for you that will affect not only how you use your property but also the value of the property. Thus, it’s crucial to take immediate action and have your property inspected by professionals. The soonest you’re able to detect the problems, you can avert leaks, mould and structural damage to your property.

Well, it’s your responsibility to clean up trees and limbs that have fallen around or on your property. Often, your homeowner’s insurance policy will cover the cost of tree removal and will pay for the repairs for any damaged structures due to the fallen limbs. But be that as it may, it’s vital to execute safe tree removal after storm damage, especially if you are doing it yourself.

After a storm, removing hazards and cleaning tree canopies of broken limbs and dead stubs should be the focus of treatment. Major pruning to alter the tree’s structure should not be done at this time. Trees use energy stored in the wood to recover from damage and produce new growth; therefore, during the clean up process, the least amount of live wood possible should be removed. (Think of the stored energy in trees as the limited funds in a bank account. After paying for repairs on the house due to hurricane damage, homeowners usually do not rush out to buy a new sailboat. Similarly, this is not the time to further reduce the already limited “funds” of the tree by removing live wood.)

Be very careful not to cause additional stress to the tree by injuring trunk, branches, or roots. Do not top your trees or cut the entire canopy back to stubs.

Below is the typical break down of the processes in 12 straightforward steps:

1. Get help with removing potential hazards.

If a limb has fallen near power lines, make sure that a qualified line-clearance arborist treats the situation.

Working near electricity is highly dangerous, and may result in a fatality for workers who do not follow proper safety procedures. Other hazardous situations include large hanging limbs or leaning trees that could fall on a person, hit a house, or damage other potential targets if they go down. These situations should be taken care of by a professional before anything else.2. Stand up and stake small fallen trees. Standing up small fallen trees is a priority because the roots dry out quickly. Experienced professionals have observed from past hurricanes that staked trees with a trunk diameter greater than about 4 inches

tend to blow down again in later storms, and may not be worth the time and expense for restanding. The reason for this appears to be that severed roots on bigger trees do not regenerate new roots as well as small (one inch diameter or less) roots do. Also, large severed roots can decay or rot, making the tree unstable. The exception is recently planted trees, which can be restaked at any size because they do not have large broken roots. These trees should be treated as new plantings and staked with the help of a professional.

There are steps for standing up trees that have fallen though. These steps are under listed as follows:

  • Keep roots moist.
  • Excavate a hole to accommodate roots.
  • Use sharp tools to make clean cuts on jagged or torn roots.
  • Pull the tree up as straight as possible, taking care to not damage the trunk or roots.
  • Fill the hole with soil from the site, but avoid burying the area where the trunk meets the top main root.
  • Irrigate the tree with the same frequency as for newly planted trees, approximately three times/week for the first several months. Also, apply water during dry periods. Do not fertilize for one year.
  • Install staking system. Remove or adjust stakes after six months to one year.

3. Irrigate stressed trees properly

Root growth is necessary for tree recovery after the storm, and keeping the soil moist will encourage formation of new roots.

When irrigating staked trees, two to three gallons per inch of trunk diameter should be sufficient. Efficient irrigation systems apply water directly to the root ball, rather than spraying overhead. Irrigation is not needed if the root ball is already saturated or wet from heavy rains.

Significant tree dieback due to salt damage can occur in coastal areas that receive storm surge from hurricanes.

These trees may require irrigation treatments to remove salts from the soil by flushing with water.

4. Clean tree canopies.

The purpose of canopy cleaning is to remove potential hazards like dead and cracked branches and broken limbs. Canopy cleaning also includes making smooth pruning cuts behind broken branch stubs to allow the proper development of new tissue to close over wounds. Remember that stressed trees need to access energy stored in their limbs in order to recover. The stored food is necessary for the tree to sprout, produce new leaves, and defend itself against organisms that cause decay. It is better to leave the tree looking unbalanced and misshapen than to remove large portions of the live canopy at this time. Shaping can be done later as part of the restoration process.5. Allow Time for Recovery Wind damage from hurricanes often strips the leaves from a tree. This interrupts the tree’s ability to photosynthesize and store energy. In response to the damage, the tree sends out epicormic shoots,

typically referred to as sprouts, found mostly along the top and at the tips of branches. To produce the sprouts, the tree uses energy (starch) stored in the living wood, which temporarily weakens the tree. Allowing sprouts to grow will rebuild the starch reserves and other energy-storing compounds, increasing strength of the tree over time.

For broadleaf evergreen and deciduous trees, wait until spring of the following year before determining if a tree is dead. If it does not sprout by the spring or early summer following the hurricane, it is not likely to recover.

For Pines, they sprout very little or not at all. When all of the needles are brown, or if there are no needles, the pine is dead.

For Palms, all leaves come from one bud located near the top of the palm. On palms with multiple trunks, each stem has a bud near the top. After a storm, it is difficult to determine whether the bud was damaged unless some obvious injury has occurred, like the trunk snapping in half.

Allow at least six months to see whether new growth emerges from the bud. New fronds could be stunted or yellow—leaves may be smaller and abnormally shaped— and it may take 2 years or more before the palm regains its full set of leaves.

6. Make a removal cut when necessary

A removal cut removes a branch back to the trunk or parent branch. After a hurricane, this type of cut is used to remove broken, cracked, and hanging limbs. Hanging and detached limbs should be removed first so that branches do not fall and cause injury. Be sure there are no cracks along the large, main branches; use binoculars to get a closer look if needed. Arborists can climb trees to check for cracks and other structural defects. A branch with a crack can be a hazard, and should be removed if there is a target nearby.

7. Make a heading cut when necessary.

A heading cut is made at a node along the stem and leaves a stub. A node is the bud area from which branches arise, sometimes visible as a line around a stem or a slight swelling. When there is not a live lateral branch present for making a reduction cut, a heading cut could be a better choice than removing a large limb back to the trunk during canopy cleaning. Removal of large limbs can take away too much live wood, causing decay and disrupting canopy balance. This can result in poor health or tree failure in the years to come.

8. Pruning proper: Sprout management

Once a tree has been determined to be worth restoring, its canopy cleaned, and the appropriate length of time has passed for recovery, it is time to begin sprout management. Sprout management is the training of sprouts so that they will grow into strong branches and build structure back into the tree. Dead portions of branches that did not sprout and any other dead branches and stubs in the canopy should first be removed. Sprouts on recovering trees grow aggressively, and competition for light and space can lead to long, weak sprouts. The goal of sprout management is for a sprout to become the new branch leader and close over the pruning cut at the branch tip. Large (4 or more inches in diameter) branches are less likely to close over

than smaller branches. A new branch leader can be established within a year or two when the diameter of the broken tip is 1-2 inches

For larger branches, it could take many years for a sprout to grow over the pruning cut, with more visits needed for reducing and removing sprouts

9. Remove dead fronds of hardwood trees that could fall and hit a target.

As with canopy cleaning on trees, the priority when cleaning palms is to remove potential hazards. The palm in the foreground of has brown, hanging fronds that should be removed. However, not all hanging fronds.

As with hardwood trees, the priority when restoring for instance palms is to eliminate hazards and minimize removal of live tissue. Irrigation two to three times per week can also help palms recover if rainfall is lacking.

When broken fronds cross over the top of the palm, they may suppress new growth from the bud. These fronds should be removed.

Also, Fronds become bent and will droop down along the trunk in a hurricane. Many of these remain green and are still well connected to the palm. These fronds should be kept until new foliage fully emerges because they photosynthesize and help the palm regain energy reserves and aid recovery.

10. Leave fronds that are yellowing or have brown tips.

Establish a fertilization program to correct nutrient deficiencies, but wait until palms begin growing new leaves before applying fertilizer. This may mean waiting up to six months after storm damage. Palms can start showing severe yellowing or chlorosis on the lower fronds because it lacks nutrients like potassium and magnesium. Yellowing or browning fronds still provide energy for growth, and removing too much of this foliage reduces the palm’s vigor, possibly even killing it.

11. Avoid overpruning palms.

The two most common mistakes made with palms are using the wrong fertilizer and overpruning. In fact, using the wrong fertilizer often leads to overpruning because typical palm maintenance (though potentially harmful) removes all leaves that are yellowing or have brown tips. Arborists report that overpruned palms suffered more damage in hurricanes than palms that were not pruned. This points to the importance of pruning appropriately. Removing too many fronds exposes the delicate bud to more wind and more potential damage. Remember, palms need older fronds to protect the bud and provide nutrients for growth.

12. Start a Tree Management Program

With a team of professionally trained commercial and municipal arborists who provide routine tree maintenance, including appropriate pruning, communities recover much faster after a hurricane.

The continued growth of the profession is encouraging, as more communities recognize the need for allocating resources for the care of trees.

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