Last week we saw a pretty strong storm front come through Lincoln County, resulting in power outages, downed trees, and damage to property. Once the immediate effects like power outages have been fixed, homeowners have to manage the longer-term issues with storm damaged trees. This week, I wanted to provide some brief guidelines on how to support damaged trees in the aftermath of weather events.

            First and foremost- if a tree presents an immediate physical threat, please seek help from a certified arborist or tree care company to safely remove the tree from the environment. These experts have the equipment and knowledge to safely remove broken or down limbs and can often save and repair damaged trees. Immediate threats include tree limbs ready to fall and downed utility lines. If there is a downed utility line, do not attempt to do anything with the tree until the utility company has handled the downed line. After a storm, the priority usually falls to dealing with hazards to life and property, then cleaning debris from the storm. If the tree does not present immediate physical risk, it’s often a good plan to keep the tree for now.

            Storm damage like the removal or damage of limbs, stripped and shredded foliage, or bark and trunk damage can make trees look like there’s no possible way they’ll survive. However, trees are often very resilient and have a great ability to recover from many types of damage. To assess a tree’s chances of recovery, first, consider its health before the storm. A healthy tree that wasn’t posing a hazard and doesn’t have major structural damage, like a split trunk, is likely to recover from storm damage. Next, look at the tree’s largest limbs. If those limbs are broken, it will be more difficult for the tree to recover from the storm damage. Examine the areas where the branches were broken or bark has been damaged. Larger wounds decrease the tree’s ability to heal and become potential entry points for disease and insects, which can lead to tree death. If you find broken limbs that haven’t fallen, use proper pruning techniques to remove them, reducing the risk of decay and aiding the tree’s recovery. Also consider the crown of the tree—if more than 50% of the branches and leaves in the canopy of the tree are gone or damaged, the tree is not likely to be able to survive through the next growing season.

            Deciding whether to keep a tree or remove it depends on many factors. If the tree is mature and has minor damage (such as the loss of one major limb), you should keep the tree in the landscape. If the tree was healthy to begin with and retains the majority of it’s strong limbs, it will most likely survive. Young trees should also be kept as long as they haven’t lost their primary leading branch. If a tree has more significant damage, it is best to remove broken branches (but not over prune) and wait and see what happens in the next growing season (typically a years time). If the tree was diseased or unhealthy to begin with, has split it’s trunk, or has lost more than 50% of its branches and foliage, it is unlikely the tree will survive. If you need help with tree care, please contact us at or 706-359-3233.

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