Storms happen. It’s a fact of life we’ve all come to understand, and most of the time the raucous weather runs its course and moves on. But some storms leave their mark, both on the countryside and, unfortunately, on people’s homes and lives.
Luckily, there are ways to limit the damage these storms can cause.
While I’m not an arborist, I am a professional storm chaser, and I’ve seen countless trees taken down by high winds, heavy snowfall, and even hail. I can offer some helpful tips I’ve picked up along the way that may be able to save you from unnecessary damage to your home.
First, let me address trees and the potential for destruction. Having a tree in your yard may be aesthetically pleasing, but in the right (or wrong) circumstances, it has the potential to damage your home. Strong wind is the primary catalyst for turning beautiful trees into house-harming annoyances. Consider these factors when evaluating the pros and cons of the trees in your own yard:
The best advice is to get to know the trees in your yard. If you’re confident in your ability to identify different types of trees, diagram your yard and identify each tree and its location along with its species. If you’re not sure, it’s best to find a local arborist.
Depending on what kinds of trees you have, proactive steps might be needed to help prevent an incident. Younger trees are more flexible and are less likely to snap or fall. Over time, bigger and older trees can become brittle due to harmful insects and disease and have a higher potential to fall. If you have older trees, performing regular maintenance on them can help avoid an incident during a storm. Keep in mind the trees on the west side of your house are more prone to fall, as strong straight-line winds usually move west to east — obviously, winds associated with tornadoes, hurricanes and nor’easters can come from opposite directions.
Trees that provide large canopies of shade, such as a willow tree, are awesome in the summer, but keep in mind the same parts of the tree that provide the shade can also form the equivalent of a wind sail in a large storm and easily pull the tree out of the ground, especially if it’s an older tree. Some common minimum tree maintenance should include regular trimming and pruning.
Make sure you’re aware if your trees have large, horizontal branches coming out from the trunk. This changes the center of gravity, making the tree more top-heavy and potentially more susceptible to falling over in a storm. Also, try to eliminate branches hanging over your roof or driveway by cutting these down early. It can save you from a big headache if they grow too big or if they break off in severe weather.
If you’re considering planting new trees, birch or quaking aspens are safe options, according to the National Park Service. These trees have roots that are interconnected, so they’re incredibly strong. These trees have been known to stay standing even after the harshest storms.
Author Reed Timmer is a meteorologist and storm chaser who starred on the reality show ‘Storm Chasers’ on the Discovery Channel from 2007-2012. He has up-close and personal experience with a number of different types of extreme weather, and here he provides his opinions on how to handle certain situations in an effort to help you limit the potential damage you may incur in a storm. His advice is not meant as the definitive word in safety, but rather, a logical springboard for people to make their own decisions with regard to their particular situation.