If you are a native resident, or have lived in Tucson long enough, you know that monsoon season is one of the highlights of the year! We cherish our summer rainfall and look forward to it with eager anticipation. The storms bring much needed relief from blistering temperatures and quench the dry desert soil. Not to mention the stunning light shows they produce in the sky. But as exciting as all of that may be, monsoon storms also bring heavy winds and hail that can result in major storm damage. Trees are especially vulnerable during these extreme weather conditions. Uprooted trees or fallen branches are the primary cause of property damage after a storm. They are also hazardous for people and power lines. In the aftermath of these unfortunate events, expensive clean up and repairs are often needed. In this article we will explore ways to protect your trees from storm damage this monsoon season.
Reasons that trees fail during a storm
Wind Force & Poor Tree Structure – It seems contradictory that trees would not be able to sustain wind. Afterall, trees grow outdoors and develop in such a way that they are typically able to tolerate wind. However, the sporadic and sudden increase of wind speed during a storm causes stress that trees are not accustomed to. Much like a sail on a boat, leaves and tree branches catch the wind. Thick foliage and crowded limbs experience more force because the wind cannot flow freely through leaves and around branches. This intense pressure is what leads to limb failure. Wind exploits any weakness in a tree. An unbalanced crown (too much weight on one side of the canopy) may twist and break during a storm. Areas of decay or fractures in the tree structure are also a high risk for monsoon damage. Hollow areas may exist within the tree that are not always visible to the untrained eye.
Over Saturated Soil, Shallow Roots, or Weak Roots – During a monsoon, it’s not uncommon to receive rainfall for days on end. In other states this type of moisture may not be an issue, but here in the Sonoran Desert our rocky soil is not prepared for excess water. When soil becomes oversaturated it loosens its grip around tree roots making the root system unstable. In addition, many of the trees and plants growing in the Tucson area are shallow rooting. This means that roots grow horizontally, just under the soil surface, instead of growing deep and straight down. Heavy wind force can easily topple a shallow rooting tree, especially in extremely wet ground. In some instances, tree roots are weak despite the soil or species. Newly planted trees, for example, may not have had enough time to establish a strong root system. A tree affected by insect, fungus, or disease may have rotted or compromised roots.
Lightning – Electrical current always flows towards the ground. Because trees are tall and full of water, they offer a faster route to the ground than the air. As a result, trees are very susceptible to lighting strikes. This is why our parents always warned us as kids about sheltering under a tree during a storm!
Methods for preventing storm damage
The first step is consulting a professional arborist like Branching Out Tree Service. We will carefully examine your tree, determine potential hazards, and perform necessary maintenance. An experienced tree worker can detect issues that the average person may not be aware of. It is important to note that not all storm damage can be prevented. However, the risk can be greatly reduced.
Proper tree care and preventative tree pruning are the best defense against monsoon season. A healthy, well-trimmed tree with a balanced form is more likely to withstand high wind conditions. If air can flow easily through an open canopy instead of pushing against it, then wind damage is less likely. Pruning also removes dead branches which are very brittle and the first to snap during a storm. When a large tree branch is growing over a house or too close to powerlines it is usually safer to just eliminate it. Trees that are already dead, decayed, or dying, should often be removed entirely as they are unpredictable and fragile.
Supplemental support systems using steel cabling or brace rods can correct certain structural issues. These systems reinforce weak branches and provide better weight distribution. Lightning protection systems can also be installed in trees to deter electrical currents during a strike. However, these systems can be very expensive and lightning strikes are not very common.
After the Storm
In the event storm damage occurs, and you need assistance with the cleanup and removal of debris, Branching Out Tree Service can help. It is also very important to have trees inspected after a storm, regardless of whether you see obvious signs of breakage or not. There may be cracks or weakness in the tree structure that are not apparent from the ground. Even if limbs are broken the tree can usually be saved, but early detection is vital. The longer these issues go unresolved, the more of a problem they become. Contact us to schedule a free assessment.