When Winter Storms Arrive Early

If you are a resident of the northeast, still digging out after the massive nor'easter that blindsided the area over the weekend of 10/29/11, our thoughts are with you. In the aftermath of the storm, many are still in shock at the sheer volume of landscape damage. Thousands saw beloved ornamentals, shrubs and species trees broken in half, bowed to the ground or missing branches. While there are no guarantees that this damage can be prevented, it pays to be educated and to understand 1) why was the impact so great? and 2) how can I prepare for the future?

Why Are Autumn Storms Especially Dangerous?

While snowstorms are inherently dangerous at any time of year, autumn storms pack an extra punch. The simple fact is that most deciduous trees and broad leafed evergreens are not designed to cope with heavy snow loads. When a snowstorm strikes before these trees have had a chance to shed leaves and lighten their canopies, the result is a dangerous amount of weight on branches that are ill equipped to support it. In light of this, autumn storms represent the rare exception where healthy trees may fare worse than diseased or compromised trees.

Adding to the danger of an autumn snow storm, many trees are left with high-hanging, damaged branches or "widow makers" which can be can cause a great deal of damage if left unattended. To further complicate matters, anyone attempting to remove them must contend with branches whose weight can shift rapidly as clumps of snow fall off, essentially turning them into spring loaded whips.

As branches fall, so do power lines. While it should go without saying, it's never safe to assume that a downed line is dead, therefore safe to touch. There are far too many stories where people make this mistake and wind up badly hurt or worse. If you encounter a downed line on your landscape, contact your power company and avoid contact.

What Should I Do in the Wake of an Autumn Snowstorm?

When autumn storms strike, continually assess your landscape and look for opportunities to lend a hand to your trees, ornamentals and shrubs. If a tree is badly bowed, gently shake the trunk to dislodge the snowy burden. Bounce lower branches from underneath to relieve the most heavily stressed areas. Dense evergreens and shrubs are often deformed by heavy snow. Using the bristle end of a broom, gently bounce the middle of the branches from underneath.

More than anything, keep this thought in mind...patience is a virtue. While you may think that your prized ornamentals, shrubs and species trees are lost forever, it's important to not underestimate the restorative powers of nature. Bowing trees DO come back. Ornamentals encased in ice CAN survive. (In a case like this, the best advice is to not touch them. The brittle coat formed by ice acts as both a load and a support.)

Give your snow a chance to melt and see how your landscape responds. You might be surprised at how resilient your trees and shrubs can be. In the unfortunate case that you do have a tree that has sustained too much damage, contact a professional to discuss a plan for safe removal.

At SavATree, we understand the emotional connection that can be established with trees. Click here to read a personal account of the recent nor'easter by a SavATree employee.

If you would like to discuss your landscape with a professional, contact your local SavATree arborist. SavATree is staffed by top arborists who excel in areas such as restoration pruning. If you love your landscape but simply don't have the time to address these issues, let us lend a hand.

For major damage such as a fallen tree or limb call or click to contact your arborist and schedule an appointment.

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SavATree offers a full range of tree, shrub and lawn services to the following locations:

Connecticut - Fairfield, Hartford, Litchfield, Middlesex, New Haven, New London, Tolland, Windham; Illinois - Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry County, Will; Maryland - Montgomery, Prince George's; New Hampshire - Rockingham; Massachusetts - Barnstable, Bristol, Essex, Middlesex, Norfolk, Plymouth, Rockingham, Suffolk, Worcester; Minnesota - St. Paul, White Bear Lake, Stillwater, Woodbury, Mendota Heights, Sunfish Lake, Twin Cities; New Jersey - Bergen, Burlington, Essex, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union; New York - Bronx, Brooklyn, Columbia, Dutchess, Manhattan, Nassau, New York, Orange, Putnam, Queens, Rockland, Suffolk, Ulster, Westchester; Pennsylvania - Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Hampshire, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia, York; Virginia - Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William; Washington, D.C.; Wisconsin - St. Croix.