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206-684-TREE (8733)
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After the Storm…..Advice on dealing with tree issues

A windstorm like the one that hit the Seattle area last year (12/14/06) can leave the trees in a neighborhood looking like there’s no hope for the future. Many trees may have fallen, or lost large branches. If you are concerned about the safety of your trees that are still standing, recognize that they have weathered other storms in the past. That said, it’s always a good idea to have trees inspected to insure that their structure or stability has not been compromised by the high winds. Make sure the individual that evaluates your tree is qualified to do so. Desired qualifications are ISA Arborist Certification or the individual being a member of the American Society of Consulting Arborists (ASCA).

Never top a tree unless it has been damaged beyond repair and you are planning on retaining it for wildlife habitat. If your trees have been damaged, consider the following before writing them off as a total loss:

Some questions to ask:

  • Other than the obvious damage, is the tree generally healthy? Trees have amazing recovery capacity, so if it has not experienced major structural damage, it will probably recover.
  • Are major limbs or the main leader broken? The larger or more important the limb, the harder it will be for the tree to recover.
  • Is at least half of the tree undamaged? A tree with less than 50% of its foliage remaining may not be able to sustain itself in the future.
  • How large are the wounds? The larger the wound, the less likely the tree can recover and be structurally sound. Very large wounds invite insect infestations and decay.
  • Is the tree appropriate for the site upon which it is growing? If it is a location that will not support the tree, it may be best to remove it.

Advice for pruning:

  • Be aware of any power lines or hanging limbs. Don’t stand under trees that have broken branches that look like they’re ready to fall. If the work is high in the tree, or involves large branches, it’s a job for a professional arborist. Check the yellow pages under “Tree” and look for firms that employ ISA Certified Arborists.
  • If the tree is young, it may be able to recover and develop new structure. Remove broken branches and take a wait and see attitude. Remember that your tree needs as much foliage as possible in order to regenerate. Avoid the temptation to “shape it” in order to let the tree generate new growth and balance itself.
  • DON’T TOP TREES. Untrained or uninformed arborists may urge you to cut back all of the branches to shape the tree, or may suggest that shorter trees will be less likely to fail in future wind storms. Topped trees are more likely to fail in the future than untopped trees.
  • Don’t cut branches back to stubs. New growth will be poorly attached, and more likely to fail in the future.

How to select an Arborist

  • Remember that the decisions you make may have long term consequences for your trees.
  • If your tree is located in the city of Seattle, and is between the sidewalk and the street, a permit is needed for major pruning or removal, unless the situation is placing the public in immediate peril.
  • AVOID DOOR KNOCKERS. If someone just shows up at your door because they’re “working in the area” be cautious before considering them. Many so called arborists have no training, and their best skills are removing money from the pockets of unsuspecting consumers. Unskilled workers may do more harm than good.
  • As mentioned above, look for ISA Certified Arborists, or a firm that is a member of the TCIA (Tree Care Industry Association)
  • Ask for a certificate of insurance. They should be insured for property damage, personal liability and worker compensation.
  • If possible, get more than one estimate to ensure that the quote you have received is reasonable.
  • Above all, don’t make a decision if you feel pressured. As long as your situation is not imminently dangerous, you should take your time in selecting the right person to care for your valuable trees.

View some photos of damaged and down trees


For more information about the City Arborist and Seattle Tree Programs, call 206-684-TREE (8733), or e-mail Nolan Rundquist, City Arborist.
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