Expert shares advice on ensuring your trees hold up during hurricanes

WSAV Hurricane Central

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Knocked-down trees, broken stumps and branches scattered throughout streets and yards after tropical storms and hurricanes are common to see.

With the large number of old trees in the Savannah area, it’s even more likely to occur, as seen with recent past storms.

“During Hurricane Matthew in (2016), the issue was the heavy rainfall we had prior to the storm,” said Shannon Baughman, local manager and arborist representative for Bartlett Tree Experts.

“The ground was very saturated, and when we got the winds, that’s why we had so much damage,” Baughman told News 3.

“What the rains did was saturate the root places of the trees, and that’s why we saw toppling of entire trees, not just limb failure,” he said.

“There were numerous trees that fell on homes, across streets, across power lines…it was a natural disaster, no question about it.” 

With the peak of hurricane season approaching on Sept. 10, there is still time for people to assess the trees in their yards for the potential to fall over during a tropical storm.

It’s helpful to know which trees tend to be stronger or weaker than others.

“The strongest trees we have [in the Savannah area] are live oaks,” Baughman said. “They have the least vulnerability to wind storms, not that they cannot fail.”

Southern magnolias are another type of local tree that holds up well in strong winds. 

Mature trees like water oaks, laurel oaks, black gums and sweet gums naturally weaken as they start to hit between the 60- and 80-year-old mark, according to Baughman.

“You get into the barrier islands, where you see more of the natural forest, that is where we really saw the main issues,” he said.

Getting your yard ready for hurricanes

Experts say it’s important to get your trees checked prior to a storm to help alleviate some of the potential damage they may cause to a home, including crashing into the house and seriously hurting or killing the people inside.

Homeowners can look through the canopy of their trees and check for dead or broken branches, because those limbs have a higher potential of failure when the winds pick up. 

“They can walk around the trees and look for any type of decay or openings,” Baughman said. “That certainly suggests that there are some potential structural issues within those trees.”

If relying on a certified arborist to look at your trees, don’t wait until a storm is just days away from making landfall to have them visit your home, Baughman advised. 

“When you see a storm start building in the Atlantic is not the time to call a certified arborist,” he told News 3. “It’s a very busy time, so be proactive and call an arborist well in advance.”

A certified arborist can help check to see if a tree could be hazardous and require removal, as well as perform general maintenance in the yard to help reduce the risk.

To find a local arborist certified by the International Society of Arboriculture, just search “ISA certified arborists” online, Baughman suggested.

“Make sure you have a professional out there looking at those trees, especially when you’re thinking about a tree that could weigh tons and tons over your home,” he said. 

“You want to make sure it’s done properly.”

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