How to detect tree damage caused by winter weather

Updated Dec 28, 2023
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After the wake of a winter storm, individuals slowly emerge from their homes to assess the damage. Some landscapers may find more work on his or her plate by helping repair damaged trees.

Even though most of the damage will not be visible until the spring, there are a few key things to look for when it comes to tree damage.

Landscapers need to look for obvious signs of damage, badly sagging, or split branches or branches that have not returned to their former position.

“More than likely, if the tree was healthy before the storm, it is still going to be healthy after the storm,” says Rory Quigley, president of the International Society of Arboriculture Ontario and an arborist with the Town of Cobourg.

For trees to survive extreme conditions, landscapers need to inspect the trunk, which can be a big indication if the tree is healthy or not.

According to the Society, if the tree has come through the storm unscathed, there is a good chance the tree can be saved with little or no work.

“If less than half the tree has been damaged, there is still a good opportunity to work with the tree and bring it back to health,” Quigley says.

To help prepare against winter storms, landscapers should assess trees on clients’ properties every three to five years.

According to Mike Rosen, president of Tree Canada, there may be some benefits to tree damage during an ice storm compared to a wind storm.

“In winter, trees are dormant, and further injury by insects and disease is less likely than if the injury occurs during the growing season,” Rosen says. “Recovery depends on the health of the tree, the amount of maintenance before the damage, especially preventive pruning, and the extent of the damage; healthy, well-maintained trees with few damaged branches should recover and in time the crown may even appear normal.”

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