Guide for Homeowners:
Wind-Damaged Trees
Safety First!
After a windstorm, safe clean-up of tree
debris is the first priority. Always stay
clear of downed power lines; contact
your local utility or city for assistance and
to make a report.
Immediate steps
Watch for scams! Scammers have been
known to prey on victims of natural
disasters. Some cities will have tree care
businesses or individuals register with
the city. You can also ask for proof of
How to prevent and lessen wind damage
Remove trees that have lost more than 50
percent of the crown, sustained damage
to more than one-third of the trunk or are
leaning more than 45 degrees.
Manage storm-susceptible trees. Trees with certain defects, such
as included bark (weak, v-shaped branch junctures with bark folding
inward), internal decay, cracks, older trees with dead wood, or trees
leaning more than 45 degrees, are more susceptible to high winds.
Prune broken or damaged branches
back to the trunk of the tree cutting just
outside the branch collar. Don’t leave
stubs and don’t flush-cut. And never top
trees (blunt-cutting the main limbs of
tree tops leaving stubs). This will weaken
the branches and cause future safety
Other factors increasing susceptibility may include trees with broad
and/or unbalanced crowns or a canopy with many small twigs and
branches. Both can increase total surface area making it easier for wind
damage and for snow and ice to accumulate. Trees that have undergone
previous weather-related damage should be monitored closely.
Plant appropriate species. Some trees, especially fast-growing species,
are more susceptible to wind damage. Select species that are more
resistant including white and swamp white oaks, Kentucky coffee trees,
ginkgo, catalpa, baldcypress, sweet gum, and serviceberry, among
others. Research before you buy trees.
Pruning to ensure stronger trees
U.S. Forest Service
Correct pruning: Prune branches back to the trunk
of the tree cutting just beyond the branch collar.
See Trees Forever's Tree Care Guide: www. or the US Forest
Service's Tree Owners Manual,
Prune young trees. Young trees should be pruned
to ensure a single, central leader and strong branching
patterns. Avoid co-dominant (two or more)
leaders such as shown at lower right on
a tree that was not pruned correctly
when it was young.
Corrective pruning as the tree
grows is essential. Prune for stronger
U-shaped branch angles and remove
V-shaped angles and those with
included bark (see tree at right). Remove
dead and diseased branches and crossing or
rubbing branches.
A weak
with included
bark (L) can
break more easily
in windstorms (above).
Tree assessment after natural disasters
Many factors go into making the decision to cut down a tree. The list below can
provide you with some general guidelines. We still recommend that you
seek out the advice of experts including city foresters or certified
arborists. Things to consider:
• The tree’s health prior to the disaster
• The tree’s age. Contact an arborist or city forester if it has historical value.
• The tree’s suitability to its site
• The potential for future injury (For example, the same area might be prone to flooding again)
• The timing of the natural disaster (during the growing season or when the tree was dormant)
• Species (For example, a damaged ash tree would not be as important to save as a mature oak.)
• Adjacent trees (Is the tree the only one providing benefits in an area vs. a tree growing among other healthy trees?)
• Extent of damage. In general, remove the tree if more than 50 percent of the crown has been lost (see right), more than 1/3 of the circumference of the trunk damaged, or if the tree leans more than 45 degrees.
History of the tree's stressors. Keep in mind that a tree that has been weakened by flooding, strong winds, ice or hail is less vigorous and may be more prone to a secondary insect or disease attack or more negatively affected by an environmental condition such as an unusually cold winter.
Remember, removing a tree unnecessarily that could potentially recover
means a large and immediate loss of many tree benefits. If you decide to keep
the tree, continue to monitor its health. Sometimes the damage is not visible for
several years. Plan to do periodic reassessments, for example at six months or
one year depending upon available resources.
Finding certified arborists
The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) lists certified arborists and those
with ISA Tree Risk Assessment Qualification certification in your area:
When Replanting, Remember:
•Know your capacity. Set your own pace with planting so you can keep up with tree care and maintenance.
•Plant diverse species so that long term you won't lose your trees to one pest or disease. Seek help from your city forester, Trees Forever or the Department of Natural Resources to select the best species.
•Proper tree planting information can be found at:
Join Trees Forever on its mission to plant
and care for trees and the environment by
empowering people, building community
and promoting stewardship.
©2017 Trees Forever. All rights reserved.
This institution is an equal opportunity provider.
Trees Forever's Recover,
Replant, Restore!
•Volunteer coordination for clean-up and replanting in your community
•Help build and facilitate a tree committee
•Hold workshops on tree selection, proper tree planting and care, diseases and stressors
Call (800) 369-1269 to find
out how Trees Forever's
Recover, Replant and Restore
program can help.
Illinois Department
of Natural Resources
Supported by:
Trees Forever
(319) 373-0650 • (800) 369-1269
770 7th Avenue • Marion, IA 52302
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