Storm Damage Mitigation
So, why does storm damage occur to trees?
For trees, it begins with the high winds during Monsoon Thunderstorm season. For more information on Monsoon Thunderstorms, please view our Monsoon Thunderstorm Season article. Powerful winds may cause branches to break off, especially if they are heavily covered in leaves. Uneducated landscapers tend to encourage "lion-tailing" trees to mitigate storm damage, but this is a pruning technique that causes serious damage to the tree; possibly more than the potential storm damage would. The mass of the limbs can also play a factor in on the potential storm damage, especially with over-abundant foliage. In this case, if the limb doesn't simply break off, the tree may be split apart, unless braced or cabled.
The goal of tree pruning is to produce a mature tree which has a size and form close to what it would naturally attain. Tree pruning should be done to maintain a healthy canopy. Tree pruning needs to also take into consideration pedestrians, vehicular movement, visibility of signage, traffic, and lighting. Proper tree pruning will ensure longer life and structural strength for increased safety and less corrective pruning through its lifespan. Trees allowed to develop with minimal pruning will often require only correction of obvious structural faults, such as poorly positioned or strongly competing limbs, weak branch attachments, or limbs that are damaged or dead.
Only personnel trained in the science, proper techniques, and art of pruning should be allowed to prune trees. An important goal of planting trees is to provide shade over hot, paved surfaces. There are times when trees are placed incorrectly and get too large for the space, have thorns that could cause injury or damage, or they are too close to a structure or other trees. A careful assessment is needed to avoid over-pruning. Three pruning is a task to complete with a light hand which works with the tree over a period of years. Extreme practices that remove as much as possible to minimize pruning are counter-productive and not encouraged at any time.
Another factor leading to storm damage is the soil, which is being softened into mud by the rainfall of the monsoon thunderstorms. If the branches do not break off, and the limbs do not split the tree apart, the high winds, loose soil, and heavy grouping of leaves can make the tree uproot, especially with trees that have shallow roots or even newly planted trees without stakes. At this point, the tree is going to have to be replaced.
Staking newly planted trees is a common practice in the Southwest. Consideration should be given, however, for situations where staking may not be needed for certain trees in various situations. Properly done, staking will hold roots firmly in the soil until roots become established. There are severe, detrimental effects on trees that are improperly staked or that have had stakes left on too long. The primary purpose to stake new trees is to hold roots firmly in the soil until roots become established and are able to securely anchor the trees in place. This enables them to withstand winds and develop strength. Most importantly, staked trees need to be monitored for timeliness to remove all staking and associated hardware.
What other storm damage can occur?
For turf, and nearly all other landscape plants, the water itself can be the storm damage culprit. Soil that is compacted from regular irrigation, traffic, and time is only somewhat porous, making water pool up. Water retention areas are especially an area of concern. They are intended to retain water, but not above ground in large, deep puddles. Aerating the turf gives the water a place to go and helps to diminish the flooding of turf. Also, having dry wells inspected and cleaned out will help to move the water into the ground, further reducing flooding.
Regular maintenance helps protect your landscape from second-hand damage, too.
Consider this situation, a Chilean Mesquite [Prosopis chilensis] (which has shallow roots) has not had regular canopy pruning and is therefore top-heavy. A monsoon thunderstorm rolls into town. The rainfall loosens the soil into mud and the violent winds rock the tree out of the soil. The tree is rolled by the winds over the nearby agaves and cacti thrashing them severely. That tree and those succulent plants must be replaced! Additionally, the litter that is now strewn about the property's landscape must also be cleaned up.
Storm damage mitigation helps us as well.
When we are not out cleaning up storm damage, we are devoting 100% of our resources to ensuring all of our managed landscapes are in prime condition. When we are cleaning up storm damage, we must divert some of our staff from maintenance, slowing down scheduled services. So when it comes down to it, mitigating storm damage helps you help us help you!