Trees, Hurricanes and You

Tree Care

Hurricane season lasts six months and returns annually. Prepared homeowners are those who have selected wind-resistant trees for their landscapes, who have thinned out those trees to mitigate wind damage, and who have equipped themselves with information and tools for safe post-storm clean-up.

Hurricane season lasts a full six months—from June 1 to November 30. With two months still to go, we’ve already seen an active season with extremely destructive storms.

Here’s a homeowners’ mini-guide to planting hurricane-resistant trees, preparing your landscape for storms, and safely cleaning up afterward.

Plant the Right Trees

Some trees are more wind-resistant than others. Smart Florida homeowners will select trees for their properties that are known to withstand hurricane-force winds. These include sand live oaks, Southern magnolias, live oaks, crape myrtles, bald cypress trees, sabal palms, manila dates, pygmy dates, gumbo limbo, and sea grapes.

In addition to selecting the right trees, homeowners should select the right place to plant the trees. Trees that fall in a storm may damage or crush whatever is in their path. Plant large trees away from structures and power lines.

Consider grouping trees. Strength comes in numbers. Trees grouped together will buffer each other and provide increased wind resistance.

Prepare for Storm Season

Prepare your landscape well before a big storm is forecast to hit. The pruning and thinning of trees is the best action homeowners can take to avoid storm damage.

Thinning trees over 15 feet tall should be tasked to professionals with experience, training, and the right equipment. Hire a tree service company early (before a storm is tracking your way and everyone else is calling the same company).

Tree trimmers or certified arborists will remove dead and cracked branches, shorten long branches, and trim branches and foliage away from roofs. They will also thin out the interiors of trees by removing water sprouts, redundant branches, and densely packed foliage. Opening space in trees allows wind to pass through the trees rather than pushing them over.

Homeowners can perform these same tasks themselves on trees that are shorter than 15 feet.

After a Hurricane Passes

Hurricanes cause different kinds of damage to trees. They may snap off a tree and knock it to the ground. They may push a tree partially over. They may break, twist and shred a tree’s branches.

Homeowners are left with trees to cut up, branches to pick up, and partially-severed branches to extract. They are also left with trees that are partially uprooted and leaning.

Hiring professionals to deal with damaged, leaning, or fallen large trees is a homeowner’s best decision. However, many homeowners elect to do the work themselves, and this is when the utmost attention to safety must be paid.

Follow the suggestions below for the safest possible cleanup experience.

  • Mark out a work zone with tape or cones.
  • Work with a partner.
  • Assess safety risks and have an escape route if a branch or tree falls in a different direction that anticipated.
  • Keep first-aid supplies handy as well as a phone for calling for help in an emergency.
  • Wear protective gear when using power tools such as a chain saw; read the manual and follow the instructions for safe useage.
  • Don’t overexert or attempt clean-up moves that are beyond your abilities.

Wrapping it all up: plant wind-resistant trees, thin them before storm season, and exercise caution during clean-up.

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