summer thunderstorm


Summer thunderstorms in Dayton can be exciting – and dangerous. Although we all love the warmth and sunshine of summer, it also brings with it torrential downpours, violent thunderstorms, and high winds that put trees and property at risk.

About Summer Storm Damage

Summer storm damage to trees is usually caused by strong winds, but it’s made worse by rain. The heavy rain we often see with summer thunderstorms causes our clay soils to get saturated with rainwater, making it more difficult for tree roots to anchor a tree firmly in place. The end result is trees being toppled by winds as the roots are pulled out of the ground.

This is even more true for recently-planted trees that haven’t yet developed a large root system to stabilize them during unpredictable wind gusts.

Storms also cause broken branches and even snapped tree trunks, making the trees dangerous to be around after the storm has passed. Broken branches, in particular, can fall without warning, severely injuring or damaging a person or structure below.

And don’t forget the damage done to nearby buildings, wires/cables, and satellite dishes as branches whip about in the wind.

Tree Problems to Fix Before Summer Storms Arrive

While you can’t completely eliminate the possibility of storm damage, there are things you can do to protect yourself and minimize the risk. Much of the damage sustained by trees during summer storms is preventable if you know what to look for and then take action to remedy the problem.

Take a close look at your trees (stay on the ground – don’t try to climb them!) to see if any of the following problems exist. Each of these issues increases the risk of failure and damage from summer storms.

Dead or damaged branches and/or trees

Look for deadwood (it’s easy to see at this time of year), cracks or splits, hanging branches or any other sort of damage. These are more likely to snap when under pressure from high winds.

Diseased or decayed wood

Trees and branches that aren’t healthy are generally weaker and more vulnerable to breakage.

Structural problems

While a Certified Arborist is best able to identify structural problems that compromise the stability of a tree, there are some things you can see yourself. Look for V-shaped crotches, crossing branches that are rubbing against each other, and top-heavy trees (where the canopy has been “lifted” to provide more clearance underneath).

Severely leaning trees

Just because a tree is leaning, doesn’t mean that it will fall over. But the more it leans, the greater the risk of failure, especially when the ground is saturated.

Poor root structure

A tree that’s not firmly anchored is more susceptible to failure during a storm. Things to look out for include girdling roots, cut or damaged roots (such as from nearby construction) and newly-planted trees with little root growth.

Topped trees

We do not top trees because new growth is poorly attached and susceptible to breakage (among other problems). If a tree has previously been topped, it should be inspected for potential safety issues.

Lion-tailed trees

This is another pruning method we don’t employ because of health and safety implications for the tree. During a storm, the heavy foliage growth at the end of each long, bare branch gets whipped around, breaking the branches.

Overly-dense canopy

A tree with a thick canopy of leaves acts as a sail, rather than letting wind pass through.

Improperly pruned trees

Some trees are mistakenly “thinned” by removing a lot of branches from the interior of the tree while leaving plenty of foliage around the outside. Unfortunately, this misguided technique makes storm damage more likely.

If you’re not certain whether or not any of your trees are a safety risk, give us a call and one of our Certified Arborists can do a thorough tree inspection to quickly identify any hazardous situations.

How to Prevent Summer Storm Damage to Your Trees

Once you’ve identified any issues with your trees, it’s time to take action to remedy the problem. Ideally, this would be done before summer gets underway, but even doing the work later in the season will be helpful.

If a tree has severe problems that cannot be fixed, it’s best to remove the tree.

Recently planted trees should be properly staked.

Most other issues can be addressed by proper pruning. This involves both corrective pruning and crown thinning.

Corrective pruning is done to fix problems like crossing branches, to remove dead, damaged or diseased wood, or to prune back overhanging branches that could damage your house or other structures.

Crown thinning is a pruning technique that reduces the overall weight of the tree canopy and increases airflow through the branches (thus reducing wind resistance). Done properly, only about 20% of the canopy is selectively removed throughout the tree. Heavier growth at the end of branches is thinned out to reduce the load so branches are less likely to snap in high winds.

If your trees haven’t been pruned in the last 5 to 7 years, it should be done now. Regular tree maintenance and pruning by a Certified Arborist is the best investment you can make to prevent tree damage from storms (during any season!), saving you time, money and the aggravation of recovering from storm damage.