Questions about storm damaged trees

Editor’s note: This article is from the archives of the MSU Crop Advisory Team Alerts. Check the label of any pesticide referenced to ensure your use is included.

I’ve received a number of calls this week regarding trees that were damaged by last weekend’s round of storms. Since these questions are typical after our spring storms, I’ll share them with Landscape Alert readers.

My tree blew over with the roots still intact. Can I stand the tree back up?
The answer depends on the nature of the tree. If this is a tree that was recently planted this spring or last year and the root ball is intact, then you should be able to stand the tree back up. The tree will need to be staked for the remainder of this year and probably next year, but that should give it enough time to expand its root system and become wind-firm. If the tree is a large, established tree then trying to stand it back up would have dubious merit. It is possible for large trees to survive wind-throw after being righted and braced. But the question then becomes, what’s to keep the tree from falling again? The tree will likely have to be cabled or braced permanently to keep it upright and in most situations this is not an option.

I have a large limb on my tree that was damaged, do I need to remove it?
The key factors to consider here are: How extensive is the damage to the branch? And if the branch failed, what would it hit? For example, a homeowner sent me a photo of a branch that cracked during the weekend storms (see photo). In this case, the branch has three strikes against it: 1) the recent crack looks to be fairly extensive and may result in extensive die-back on the limb, 2) the branch has poor attachment to the main trunk due to an earlier crack and 3) the limb is overhanging the house (just to the left of the photo). For further insights on assessing tree damage, visit the National Arbor Day Foundation guide to assessing trees after storm damage:

It is important to note that assessing and dealing with potentially hazardous trees is a deadly serious business. If you have damaged trees, be sure to flag off the area to prevent people from walking underneath threatening limbs and be sure to have the trees assessed by a reputable tree service company.

We have had people come to our door and offer to clean up our storm damage, should we let them?
As with many things, it depends. If the neighbor kids want to pick up leaves and downed branches, that’s probably okay. If you’re dealing with any kind of overhead tree work or any work near utilities, then you should contact a professional tree service. Look for companies that are insured and preferably ISA (International Society of Arboriculture) certified. In some areas “door knockers” will make the rounds offering to clean up trees. Door knockers range from hardworking folks trying to make an honest buck to out-right scam artists. In either case, improper tree work can do as much damage to your trees as the storm itself. You also need to consider what happens if fly-by-night tree service drops a tree on your house or your neighbor’s car. As with most things in life, you get what you pay for. A professional service has to cover the costs of insurance, proper training, high quality equipment, and paying good quality employees. To find an ISA certified arborist in your area, visit the ISA website:

Damaged tree.
A branch that cracked during the weekend
storms of June 6-9.

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