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Tree Safety Checklist: Reduce the Risk of Tree Failure this Winter

With winter storm season upon us, we need to protect our homes and trees. Storms, ice and temperature fluctuations during winter take their toll on trees, wreak havoc on local ecosystems and can cause loss of power or major damage to homes.

Before a storm, make it a priority to check landscape trees. Keeping trees healthy, pruned and structurally sound helps minimize accidents before the storm.

Trees maintained throughout the year are stronger. Healthy trees can hold their ground better in extreme weather, including intense winds and snowstorms.

Poorly maintained trees can become a problem. Regularly check trees for broken, damaged or leaning trunks, branches or limbs. Some maintenance is best left to the professionals. Check for the following signs to keep your home safe this winter.


8 Ways to Identify a Potentially Damaging Tree

There are several types of defects that can increase the risk of tree failure.

1.Deadwood: Dead trees and branches can fall at any time. Look for leafless branches when others have plenty of green leaves. Another sign of deadwood is old bark that has mostly fallen and hasn’t been replaced with new bark — instead, there is only smooth wood underneath.

2.Cracks: Storms can cause branches to twist, bend and crack. Check for deep splits in the bark that extend into the wood of the tree or internal or external cavities. 

3.Decay: Soft wood or cavities where wood is missing is a sign of decay. In time, decay will continue to cause structural problems.

4.Heavy canopies: Excessively thick branches and foliage catch more wind during stormy weather. This increases the risk of branch breakage and uprooting.

5.Weak branch unions:  When two or more branches intersect on the same trunk, a weak union is created. The bark can’t hold the branches together, and the upper side of the branch is unable to secure itself to the trunk.

6.Broken limbs: Assess the crown of a damaged tree to check for large, broken limbs. Proper pruning thins the tree canopy, allowing wind to blow through it — instead of against it as though it was a sail.

7.Root problems: High winds can cause trees to rock, even causing the severing of roots in some cases. Check to see if a tree is leaning to tell if it’s been affected. Wilting is also an obvious sign a tree’s roots are damaged.

8.Poor tree architecture: This is characterized by excessive leaning of the tree or branches growing out of proportion with the rest of the tree crown. Odd growth patterns may indicate general weakness or structural imbalance.


Although defective trees are dangerous, not all of them need to be removed immediately, and some defects can be treated to prolong the life of the tree. Regular tree maintenance can mean a world of difference when it comes to tree strength during a storm. Seek a consultation with a certified arborist to evaluate tree species, soil conditions, wind exposure, defects, overall health and other factors to determine a tree’s hazard potential.

Tree risks aren’t always visible or obvious. Advanced analysis, sometimes through the use of specialized arborist tools or techniques, may be necessary. Consult with your local Davey Tree Expert about tree safety today.

About the Author

The Davey Tree Expert Company provides research-driven tree services, grounds maintenance and environmental solutions for residential, utility, commercial and environmental partners across North America. As one of the largest employee-owned companies in the U.S., Davey has been dedicated to creating and delivering sustainable solutions for 140 years. Become part of the Davey legacy and apply today.

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