Feb 26, 2013

Today a tree fell on a car in the Atlanta metro area, killing the occupant.  Yesterday, Atlanta TV Channel 11, WXIA reported several trees crashing on homes.  404-CUT-TREE has removed three fallen trees yesterday and during the weekend.  Homeowners are asking, ‘what can be done to prevent this from happening to me?’  This Blog article is our attempt to answer that question.  First let’s understand why this is happening.  We’re going to talk about drought, rain, wind and their effects on trees.  Atlanta has received less rain than historic levels in 7 of the previous 10 years.  So despite receiving a lot of rain recently, we are definitely in a drought status.  And drought has profound effects on tree root systems.  Tree roots utilize very fine, hair-like roots to gather water and nutrients.  But these fine roots have a second very important function: the surface tension created by millions of fine roots and the soil is what keeps the tree from toppling over in a wind storm.  And drought damages these fine roots, breaking the surface tension.  It takes many years for trees to regenerate these roots after they are damaged.

So we have a large tree with a compromised anchoring system.  When the soil becomes saturated with water, very little wind force is required to topple the tree.  As everyone knows, Atlanta recently has been saturated with rain and now fairly minor winds are causing lots of trees to fall.  When these trees fall they generally bring up huge root balls.

A second common root problem involves root rot.  Large trees in poorly drained soil frequently experience root rot.  Roots which stay moist are susceptible to a fungus which causes them to lose their strength.  The ability of these trees to remain upright in a wind storm is compromised too.  These tree uprooted rootballs are characterized by very short roots which feel spongy and frequently are covered with a black, soot-like coating.  In this instance, the wet ground makes the trees easier to topple, but the primary cause is the root condition and wind.

A third problem has very little to do with wet ground too, but the wind could topple these trees even in dry weather.  This tree problem involves decay.  Numerous trees falling recently have been observed to have decay columns and/or cavities which could easily been detected before the tree fell.

Generally, all hardwoods can be compromised by drought conditions, red oaks are most susceptible to root rot, and pines are most susceptible to a trunk eating fungal infection called a canker.  Our experience is that roughly 2/3 of fallen trees could have been avoided by having the trees inspected by a qualified arborist BEFORE the weather event.  For the 1/3 of fallen trees with problems not visually discerned, invasive testing can be employed to identify many (but not all) of those with problems.    It’s generally better for the tree (and your wallet) to only perform invasive testing on those trees with the most numerous risk factors.  A skilled arborist can help you assess the risk by sorting through the relevant facts so you can make informed decisions to manage the risk.

There is a sense of urgency here.  Thankfully most trees have no leaves to catch the wind.  But remember that within 1 – 2 months, our trees will be fully leafed out.  With a huge ‘sail’ to catch the wind, much less wind will be required for trees to fall.  Also consider that it will take years for trees to get over their drought damage; and it will take 4 – 6 months for the soils to dry.  Most arborists believe that this problem will get much worse before it improves.  Experienced arborists can help; Certified Arborists are most qualified to help you.  Consider calling today to request a visit by a qualified arborist.

Click here to see the Atlanta tree removal company, 404-CUT-TREE’s Bob Delbridge having an interview on WXIA:


Bob was also interviewed by Christopher Quinn with the AJC.  It appeared Monday, March 4, 2013.  Click here to read the complete article: