What to do with Storm Damaged Trees

Storms are a powerful force of nature, capable of wreaking havoc on our homes, landscapes, and trees. The aftermath of a severe storm often leaves property owners wondering what to do with their damaged trees. Do you save them, prune them, or remove them altogether? The choices you make during this process can have enduring consequences for the safety of your property, its visual appeal, and the surrounding environment. Within this extensive guide, we will guide you through the necessary actions when addressing trees damaged by storms, covering everything from evaluating the extent of the damage to the safe utilization of equipment.

Quick Tips:

Before we dive into the details, here are some quick tips to keep in mind when dealing with storm-damaged trees:

  1. Safety First: Always prioritize safety. Inspect the area for hazards like downed power lines and unstable branches before approaching a damaged tree.
  2. Assess the Damage: Assess the magnitude of the damage to ascertain whether the tree can be rescued or if removal becomes imperative.
  3. Professional Help: Consult with a certified arborist or tree care professional for expert guidance when in doubt.
  4. Immediate Action: If the tree poses an imminent threat, take emergency measures to secure the area and prevent further damage.
  5. Proper Pruning: If salvageable, prune damaged branches following the correct techniques to promote tree health and safety.
  6. Environmentally Responsible: Consider recycling storm debris and replanting to help restore the ecosystem.

Assessing the Damage

The first step in addressing storm-damaged trees is assessing the extent of the damage. Different types of damage require different responses, so a careful evaluation is crucial. Here’s what you need to know:

Identifying Different Types of Tree Damage

  1. Uprooted Trees: Trees wholly uprooted by the storm are often beyond saving. Their root systems are usually too damaged for recovery.
  2. Broken Branches: Broken branches can vary in severity. Minor branch damage can often be pruned, but severe damage might necessitate removal.
  3. Cracks and Splits: Large cracks or splits in the main trunk are significant structural issues and may require removal.
  4. Leaning Trees: Trees that lean dangerously after a storm may need professional evaluation to determine if they can be safely straightened and saved.

Safety Considerations When Assessing Damage

Before approaching a storm-damaged tree, ensure the safety of yourself and others. Follow these safety precautions:

  • Check for Power Lines: Look for downed power lines near the tree. Always assume they are live and stay clear.
  • Assess Stability: Check the stability of the tree and its branches. A tree with unstable branches may collapse unexpectedly.
  • Use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Use the necessary safety equipment, including gloves, eye protection, and a helmet, when working near damaged trees.

When to Call a Professional Arborist

While property owners can address some minor damage, many situations require the expertise of a certified arborist or tree care professional:

  • Large Trees: For large or mature trees, especially those near structures, consult a professional for assessment and potential stabilization.
  • Complex Situations: If the situation involves multiple damaged trees, potential hazards, or intricate pruning needs, professional help is recommended.
  • Uncertainty: When unsure about the extent of damage or how to proceed safely, feel free to seek professional advice.

Immediate Post-Storm Actions

After assessing the damage, immediately mitigate further risks and protect your property.

Ensuring Safety for People and Property

  1. Secure the Area: Rope off the area around the damaged tree to keep people and pets away until it’s safe.
  2. Address Immediate Hazards: If a tree is leaning precariously or has hanging branches, consult a professional for emergency stabilization or removal.
  3. Emergency Pruning: If safe, prune broken or dangling branches that pose immediate threats. Use proper pruning techniques to avoid further damage.

Temporary Tree Stabilization Techniques

In some cases, you can provide temporary stabilization until a professional arrives:

  • Staking: Use stakes and guy wires to secure a leaning tree temporarily. Ensure you don’t overtighten, as this can damage the tree further.
  • Bracing: Install braces to support split trunks or branches. This can help prevent further splitting until a professional can address the issue.
  • Cabling: For trees with multiple trunks or branches, consider cabling to provide extra support and prevent further damage.

 Salvaging and Pruning

Once immediate safety concerns are addressed, you can move on to salvaging and pruning your storm-damaged trees.

Salvaging Valuable Trees

Saving a damaged tree is often the preferred option, especially if it’s a valuable or beloved specimen:

  • Proper Pruning: Use correct pruning techniques to remove damaged branches.
  • Fertilize and Water: Provide appropriate care, such as fertilizing and watering, to help the tree recover.
  • Monitor Progress: Keep a close eye on the tree’s progress over the coming months and years to ensure it’s healing and thriving.

Proper Pruning Techniques for Storm-Damaged Trees

When pruning storm-damaged trees, follow these best practices:

  • Remove Broken Branches: Trim broken branches back to the nearest healthy growth point, ensuring clean cuts to avoid further damage.
  • Reduce Crown Density: If the tree loses a significant portion of its canopy, consider thinning out the crown to reduce wind resistance.
  • Balance the Tree: Maintain the tree’s overall shape and balance while removing damaged or dead branches.

When and How to Remove Damaged Branches

In some cases, it’s necessary to remove damaged branches entirely:

  • Dead Branches: Remove dead branches promptly to prevent them from falling and causing further damage.
  • Split Branches: If a branch has split but remains attached, it’s a potential hazard and should be removed.
  • Diseased Branches: Remove branches with signs of disease or decay to prevent the spread to healthy tree parts.

When to Remove a Tree

Unfortunately, not all storm-damaged trees can be saved. Knowing when to say goodbye to a tree is essential for safety and property preservation.

Signs That a Tree Is Beyond Repair

  • Uprooted or Severely Tilted: Trees that are completely uprooted or leaning at extreme angles are typically unsalvageable.
  • Extensive Structural Damage: Trees with major trunk or root damage are unlikely to recover.
  • Signs of Disease or Decay: Removal may be the best option if a damaged tree was already in poor health or showed signs of disease before the storm.

Safety Concerns With Damaged Trees

Leaving a damaged tree standing poses significant risks, including:

  • Falling Branches: Unstable branches can fall unexpectedly, causing injury or property damage.
  • Complete Collapse: A damaged tree may collapse, potentially damaging structures or other trees.
  • Disease Spread: Diseased trees can spread pathogens to nearby healthy trees, affecting the entire landscape.

Obtaining Necessary Permits If Required

Before removing a tree, check with local authorities for any required permits or regulations. Some municipalities have strict rules governing tree removal, especially for certain species or in designated conservation areas.

Environmental Considerations

Trees play an important role in the environment, so it’s essential to consider the ecological impact of storm-damaged trees.

Recycling Storm Debris

Instead of sending storm debris to a landfill, explore recycling options:

  • Mulching: Chipping the tree debris into mulch that can be used in your garden or donated to local parks.
  • Firewood: If the wood is suitable, it can be split for firewood or donated to those in need.
  • Composting: Leaves and smaller branches can be composted to create nutrient-rich soil.

Replanting and Tree Replacement Strategies

To help restore the environment and maintain the aesthetic appeal of your property, consider replanting:

  • Choose Suitable Species: Opt for native or climate-appropriate tree species more resilient to local weather conditions.
  • Spacing: Plant new trees at appropriate distances to avoid overcrowding as they mature.
  • Regular Maintenance: Ensure proper care and maintenance to promote the health and longevity of newly planted trees.

 Safety and Equipment

Safety should always be a top priority when dealing with storm-damaged trees. Whether you’re a DIY enthusiast or hiring a professional, here’s what you need to know:

Safety Precautions for DIY Tree Work

  • PPE: Wear personal protective equipment, including gloves, safety goggles, and a hard hat.
  • Safe Equipment Use: Learn how to use chainsaws, hand saws, and other tools properly. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Buddy System: Have someone with you while working on storm-damaged trees in case of emergencies.

Necessary Tools and Equipment

For DIY tree work or when working alongside professionals, the right tools are essential:

  • Chainsaw: Use a chainsaw for cutting larger branches or for tree removal. Ensure it’s sharp and well-maintained.
  • Hand Pruners and Loppers: For smaller units and precise pruning.
  • Climbing Gear: If you need to access higher units, use proper climbing equipment and follow safety protocols.
  • Ropes and Rigging Equipment: Use appropriate rigging gear for controlled branch removal or tree felling.

Tips for Hiring a Professional Tree Service

When hiring a professional tree service, consider the following:

  • Credentials: Ensure they are certified arborists or tree care specialists with the necessary licenses and insurance.
  • References: References from previous clients to gauge their reputation and work quality.
  • Estimates: Obtain detailed written estimates and compare them before making a decision.
  • Safety Practices: Inquire about their safety protocols and equipment to ensure they prioritize safety.
Safety PrecautionsNecessary Tools and EquipmentTips for Hiring a Professional Tree Service
– Wear PPE– Chainsaw– Check credentials and certifications
– Use equipment safely– Hand Pruners and Loppers– Ask for references
– Consider a buddy system– Climbing Gear– Obtain written estimates
 – Ropes and Rigging Equipment– Inquire about safety practices


Dealing with storm-damaged trees can be a challenging and emotional. Still, with the proper knowledge and approach, you can protect your property and contribute to the health of your local environment. Remember to prioritize safety, consult professionals when in doubt, and make informed decisions about the fate of your damaged trees.

Leave a Reply