Storm damage to a Dunedin home that could have been prevented

Storm damage to a Dunedin home that could have been prevented through Storm Preparedness.

Storm Preparedness in Clearwater, Fl

The Tampa Bay is subject to severe weather on an annual basis. Consequently, storm preparedness is essential to the safety of Clearwater residents. Thunderstorms with heavy rains, high winds and lightning are commonplace in the summer months and tropical storms, hurricanes and tornadoes threaten our area as well. A single thunderstorm may cause a few trees to fall down and result in lost power and property damage. A catastrophic weather event such as a tropical storm with seventy miles an hour wind may cause hundreds of trees to fall resulting in widespread loss of power and millions of dollars in property damage. You should know what to do in the event of a bad storm in Clearwater.


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Possible Effects from Storm Damage

It would be easy to conclude that storm damage to trees present a liability to the properties where they grow. But this is simply not the case. After hurricane Andrew in 1992 a study concluded that houses with trees in the yard received less damage than houses without trees. Trees intercept the energy force from high winds and buffer houses. Even in a storm as savage as hurricane Andrew, a relatively low percentage of trees actually fell. Trees have been engineered by nature to withstand most severe weather events. Storm preparedness data from both hurricane Andrew and Hugo suggest that most of the trees that fell or suffered breakage of large scaffold branches were either rooted in low lying saturated ground or predisposed to failure due to structural defects, e.g., diseased structural roots, trunks with cavities, codominant stems in scaffold branches or weak wooded tree species.

Boen's Tree Service in Clearwater

Tree Service in Clearwater, Fl.

4 Ways Trees Could Fall During Storms:

  1. Branches in the crown can shear due to high winds
  2. Trees fail where cavities and rotten wood are present
  3. Codominant stems fail
  4. Trees uproot

Boen’s Tree Service Storm Preparedness Tips

When you are considering storm preparedness, trees can be an asset rather than a liability in storms if the right tree species are used and they are maintained correctly. However, it is impossible to grow a tree that is completely storm proof. The science that studies the mechanics of tree structure has made great advancements but is still inconclusive. Trees respond in many ways to forces such as wind and gravity. They develop tension wood, compression wood and flexure wood. For instance, the wood of a tree will be different on the windward side of a stem than on the leeward side in areas that have prevailing winds. In addition, a tree may develop smaller leaves and shorter stouter branches to reduce the drag effect.

The Science of Storm Damage

When considering all areas of storm preparedness, there are several scientific models that measure the wind loading capacity of different species in an attempt to predict a point at which a tree is likely to fail. However, the properties of wood are so variable and influenced by factors such as disease, age, wounds, and prior maintenance that no model can accurately predict a constant rate at which a tree will fail. However, we know that certain tree species hold up better in storms. For instance, the three pine species native to the Tampa Bay area, sand pines (Pinus clausa) are very prone to fail during storms while slash pine (Pinus elliottii) and longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) rarely fail.

Will Storm Preparedness Help?

As a tree grows the wood in the roots and branches will adapt to the forces of wind and gravity. That is why in the course of a normal severe summer thunderstorm it is unlikely to see an otherwise healthy tree fail. The tree has adapted over the years to the forces of a typical summer thunderstorm. What you usually see is the weaker wooded trees or diseased trees fail. However, few trees have ever experienced the force of a tropical storm or hurricane winds and have therefore not adapted to them. But even in a major hurricane condition, a tree with stronger wood that has been cared for properly may survive the storm with only minor damage.

Storm Preparedness Best Practices:
  • Select trees that have a good track record for surviving storms such as live oak, slash pine, Southern magnolia, pignut hickory, bald cypress. Avoid weak-wooded trees such as ear trees, jacaranda, Australian pine, sand pine, eucalyptus etc.
  • Plant trees in locations where they are not next to a root barrier. For instance a tree planted in the middle of the yard will allow the root system to grow and support it from all directions, while a tree planted near a house will have a one sided root system and will be more likely to fall.
  • Have your tree professionally pruned so that it has a central leader trunk with well spaced lateral branches. Avoid the formation of codominant stems. They are structurally weak and especially prone to fail on older, larger trees.
  • Avoid physical wounds or flush cuts that will evolve into decayed areas or cavities. Many tree failures resulted from wood that was decayed due to simple negligence.
  • Have dying, declining trees removed or trees in the group listed above that are weak-wooded and prone to fail.
  • Have your trees pruned early in the year before the storms arrive. Keep branches well over your roof and away from structures. Remove dead, dying and defective branches will help with storm preparedness. If you wait until a storm is approaching it will likely be too late.
  • Have your trees inspected annually by a competent I.S.A. Certified Arborist. The arborist can detect problems that could lead to failure during a storm and perform the remedial work.
  • Proper pruning, preventative maintenance and annual inspections are the cornerstones of having healthy trees and avoiding unnecessary storm damage.
Hurricane Preparedness Tips:
  • Turn on NOAA radio for the latest weather updates
  • Make sure you have plenty of bottled water and non-perishable food items
  • Board up windows if needed
  • Pick up any loose items in yard that could become a projectile
  • Close hurricane shutters
  • Refrigerators should be set at coldest settings in case of power outage
  • Unplug any electrical equipment
  • Make sure your vehicles are filled up and the oil is checked
  • Check local hurricane response plans in case evacuation is needed
  • Try to avoid flooded roads and any bridges that may be susceptible to water overflow

It is important to note that your typical home owner’s insurance policy does not include insurance for flooding. You may want to contact your insurance agent ahead of time if you concerned about flooding or live in a flood zone.

Boen’s Tree Service provides this information as a community service. Always check with your local officials regarding any specific information about storm preparedness.