June 22, 2024

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How to tell if a tree will fall

4 min read

Experts say the health of the tree is important to keep it standing.

WASHINGTON — It’s something that can catch homeowners off guard.  Trees that once stood tall, end up on someone’s home.  But what does it really take to make a tree fall?  WUSA9 Turned to certified arborist Lou Meyer with Davey Tree for answers.   

 ” A tree is in danger of falling based on a few different items, one is exposure to the elements, so mainly wind and condition of the tree,” Meyer said. 

Meyer walked around a park in Montgomery County  and found a several trees that caught his attention.  He said rot and decay make a tree more vulnerable to falling because it’s in a weaker state. 

 “See this big chunk missing there? That’s inner decay,” Meyer pointed out on a tulip poplar tree.  “When you have pockets of decay 15 to 20 feet up that doesn’t have excess growth, that’s where a tree pops.” 

Trees with co-dominant stems should make a U shape as they branch out Meyer said.    If those trees make a V shape, they should be monitored.  

“When you see a tight V like this, and you see the bulge this is the tree trying to outgrow the decay and not doing it very successfully,” Meyer said.  “Instead of the root ground where that tree is supposed to take the pressure, it’s catching it here.  When you’ve got this juncture here, this V,  and they’re blowing around all that pressure is right here and if there’s a pocket of decay, that’s where you see trees split,” Meyer explained.    

He said not every tree with a V shape needs to be cut, but it should be inspected.     

Trees with diseases are also vulnerable.  He spotted a tree full of healthy leaves but with rotting branches. 

“There’s a lot of dead limbs up on the crown of this .  Hard to see from the ground but there’s a disease called hypoxylon canker, it’s a fungal vascular disease,”  Meyer explained.  

The canker may appear as a dead spot on the tree.  You may notice missing bark.  The disease disrupts the tree’s ability to transport water and nutrients from the leaves to the roots, and the tree dries out and becomes weaker.  Branches and limbs can fall easily in storms. 

RELATED: Falling trees: Here’s how much wind it takes to knock over a tree

Weather plays a big role especially in spring and summer.    

 “At 50 miles per hour, you’re going to see some significant failure in trees in the area.  When you get up in the 70 mph range, that’s when you see failure across the board,” Meyer said.   

Too much rain can also cause trees to tumble. 

“When it rains for days at a time, the soil is just soup. The roots can’t hold on to the soil,”  Meyer explained. 

Meyer said tall, skinny trees are more likely to fail in high winds because they catch more wind at a higher area.  Tulip Poplars  and Maple trees tend to snap, while Oaks and Hickory trees will uproot more easily, he said but it’s rare. 

“That doesn’t mean you have to get rid of those species by any means,” he said.  He suggests that homeowners simply get the trees inspected. 

Having leaves on a tree makes it more vulnerable to falling in high winds.  

“Leaves and trees catch the wind, it creates a sail like effect, like a boat,” Meyer explained.  “Trees that have full leaf canopies are catching more wind and they’re moving  more in storms.  That’s why we see more failures in summertime.  We’re pulling more trees off of houses in the summer after summer storms.” 

Meyers says having a cluster of trees around provides some protection from the wind, because they all take on the force of the wind together.  If one or a few trees gets cut, it puts more pressure on the trees left behind, leaving them vulnerable. 

Thinking about chopping a tree? Not so fast 

Meyers said trees provide a lot of benefits. 

“They really are exceptional being that are instrumental to our existence,” Meyer said.  

RELATED: Takoma Park home destroyed after large tree falls atop of it

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2024-04-11 22:16:53

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