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DALY: Use caution around storm-damaged trees

Timothy Daly

Timothy Daly

Recently, there have been many news reports about trees causing damage to property as the result of storms. They have brought down power lines, damaged vehicles, closed roads and even caused a few fatalities.

The excessive rains of the past few weeks have saturated the soil. This increases the susceptibility of the trees being damaged by high winds. The high stress levels they have been under in recent years as a result of the prolonged drought, construction activities, floods and pest infestations have increased the chances of trees suffering damage.

What should you do if you have trees damaged and blown down as a result of the storms? First and foremost, take the necessary safety precautions. Storm-damaged trees can present dangers to homeowners. The trees could be in contact with electrical wires. Anyone touching the tree could be electrocuted. Contact your local power provider so it can assess the situation.

Trees that are down or partially blown over can easily shift position due to the uneven weight distribution. Avoid climbing on the tree or pulling on any limbs. You may be tempted to begin removing the damaged tree yourself. However, doing so can lead to serious injury or death. If large sections of the tree are broken or hanging, or if the work will require the use of a ladder or chainsaw overhead, then a certified arborist should be consulted.

A certified arborist is someone who has received proper training through the International Society of Arboriculture (http://isa-arbor.com) and has been tested for knowledge of technical information on tree care, repair and removal. These professionals have the resources for the safe removal of damaged trees. If the trees are near electrical lines or structures, specialized expertise and equipment are necessary to remove them. Additionally, arborists can provide recommendations for preventative maintenance to maximize the health of the existing trees on your property, such as pruning, fertilization and pest control to maintain their health and vigor.

How should you go about searching for a tree removal service? Make sure the person doing the assessment of the trees is a certified arborist. Ask for proof of insurance, including the name and contact information of the insurance company. Check to make sure the company has the necessary licenses and permits to perform the work. Ask for references and contact them. Consider visiting sites where the company has performed work in the past. Get multiple estimates and do not always accept the lowest bid.

You should examine the credentials and the written specifications of the estimates to determine the best combination of price, work to be done and professionalism. Most reputable arborists present their clients with a detailed contract. It explains when the work will begin and end as well as who will be responsible for the cleanup. It should specify the total costs. Ask if there are any hidden fees, such as stump grinding, which often is an additional cost. For more information on arborists and tree care companies, visit the website of the Georgia Arborist Association at www.georgiaarborist.org.

Storm-damaged trees can be upsetting to the homeowner. These trees can be very dangerous, which is why only experts should remove them and not homeowners. Special care must be taken to remedy the situation safely and effectively. Using certified arborists will help improve the chances that any work performed will be done properly.

Timothy Daly is a MS, Agricultural and Natural Resource Extension Agent with the Gwinnett County Extension. He can be contacted by phone at 678-377-4010 or by email at timothy.daly@gwinnettcounty.com.