With what forecasters are calling a possible snow storm of the century just hours from arriving it is a little too late to take those extra steps to prevent possible storm damage to your trees and shrubs. You can however be prepared for how to handle certain situations that may arise after the storm has passed. The first thing to remember is DO NOT try to swat, beat, bang or knock heavy snow or ice off of your trees or shrubs. They may be leaning over or look like they are going to break at any moment but you interefering with Mother Natures "process" will more then likely cause more harm then good, not to mention the risk you take of injuring yourself if the tree should give way and fall on you.....or cause the snow and ice load to fall on you..... It is just not smart either way you look at it so PLEASE don't try it! In cases of small evergreens (Yews, Junipers, Hemlocks, Leylands, etc) and snow (not ice) you can gently brush snow off ot the limbs with a soft broom to help eliminate some of the weight from its branches, again please wait until after the storm has passed.
Image Citation: Amy Gilliss, Arundel Tree Service
If your trees are damaged remember, trunks, limbs and branches can in some cases be cabled or braced professionally (if the damage is not to severe). If the damage is too much for cabling or bracing to correct, damaged sections may be able to be cut back to a safe point to save the remaining tree. In cases of severe damage the entire tree may need to be removed entirely and replaced with a more sturdy option (Remember the right tree right place rule if you are replanting!). When trying to determine if a tree is worth saving you need to considered not only the extent of the damage but the extent of the possible repairs and the overall value of the tree itself. If your tree has a small amount of bark that is peeling, ripped or torn after a limb breaks off completely, do not try to cover the wound or repair it. If it is hanging and pulling on the wound causing further damage, you can cut (with clean sharp trimmers) off just the loose/hanging portion, leaving a small portion loose near the edge of the wound (not cutting tight to the wound) be very careful not to pull or peel anything further from the tree. Trees have a natural process (CODIT) by which they heal themselves. Covering wounds or interfering during the process could actually prevent this healing process from occurring.
Image Citation: Billy Humphries, Forest Resource Consultants, Inc., Bugwood.org
If your small tree or shrub begins to uproot it may be able to be uprighted and secured with stakes or guy wires. Keep in mind that if more then 1/3 of the roots are damaged you may be fighting a losing battle. Do not try to upright large trees, not with your truck, not with a come-along, and never with a ladder (yes we have seen the results of these attempts ad they are not pretty) - if the tree is too large to be lifted by natural human power then contact a professional and let them lead you in the right direction.
Image Citation: Joseph O'Brien, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org
Some tree varieties are damaged more often during storms then others because of inherent structural weakness such as weak wood, weak roots or narrow crotch angles, these include but are not limited to Bradford, Cleveland and Aristocrat Pears, Elms, Poplars, Silver Maples and many common evergreens/conifers. With these types of trees artificial support may be recommended to help prevent crotch or branch splitting or breakage. Of course, it is always best to plan ahead before storms arrive, look up at your trees often to monitor for any changes that may be cause for concern. Remember, trees are living, growing and changing, they require care maintenance and TLC to thrive! Structural damage caused by wind and ice can usually be prevented by careful and through pruning including removing weak/diseased limbs, or limbs forming narrow crotches.
You may reach us during an emergency (24/7/365) via email firstname.lastname@example.org or call our office during regular business hours (410)439-1900. Stay safe if you must venture out during the storm, otherwise stay warm and enjoy the Snow Days to come!