Keeping up tree health to prevent falling limbs, trees in storms

Summer tree safety

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Severe weather sometimes brings with it wind gusts capable of exposing just how weak trees and limbs are around your property.

Now that we are into severe weather and hurricane season, you may want to take a close look at what’s around your home, and what may come crashing down in the next storm.

WTOC spoke to a certified arborist on Monday to learn more about why you should consider having a visual inspection of trees near your home every couple years, along with a pruning plan every three to five years.

A visual inspection might reveal weaknesses in trees that you might not notice until it’s too late, like one instance for a homeowner in Effingham County.

“Luckily, it didn’t completely crush it. It kind of gave it a glancing blow that crumbled part of the side, but we can still get in there.”

Jonathan Hathaway said there weren’t any real tell-tale signs that he recognized that something was wrong with the tree next to his shed, until it snapped in half during a storm within the last week, revealing rot inside.

Hathaway said the experience has him taking a second look at trees around his yard, especially those closer to his house.

“Sometimes you don’t think they’re within striking distance to the house, but it depends on which way they fall and sometimes they’re taller than you think," Hathaway said. "So we were definitely fortunate to have that one miss the house and not do a whole lot of damage that matters.”

Certified arborist, Lynn Tootle, told WTOC some of the things you can do at home to check the health of big trees on your property to determine whether or not they’re a threat.

“A heavy rubber mallet, pound on the side of the tree. If there’s a good thud, the tree is solid. If it sounds like a bass drum, you can have some internal decay, you need to call somebody," said Tootle, GM of GroMasters Inc. “If there’s a rot-hole, take a broom stick, push it into the rot-hole. If that broom stick goes in more than three inches, then there’s internal decay and you need to seek the help of an arborist.”

Tootle said also trim back dead wood like this that poses a threat in high winds.

One thing to keep in mind - any trauma to a tree that may weaken it like a lightning strike or something hitting it’s trunk - you won’t necessarily see the effects right away.

It can take a year or two for the damage to show and cause that tree to become a hazard.

The trees that are most susceptible to damage are water oaks, laurel oaks and sweet gum trees. Those that are less likely to have issues are magnolias and live oak trees.

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