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Lightning Protection for Trees

As arborists can tell you, trees are the most common victims of lightning strikes. Most lightning bolts pass through trees on the way to the ground. This is because trees contain a lot of water and water is a better electrical conductor than air. The tree trunk in particular contains a high concentration of water near the cambium, or just under the bark.

As the electricity from the lightning surges through the water in the tree trunk, it causes it to boil explosively, blasting off the bark, and sometimes throwing pieces over a hundred feet.

Lightning Can Be Dangerous to Trees

Although a typical lightning bolt contains 250 kilowatt hours of electricity, it is the duration of the lightning bolt that determines how destructive it will be.

“Cold” bolts are characterized by high electrical current and extremely short duration. One of these penetrating to the heart of a tree can convert it to kindling instantaneously.

“Hot” bolts are of lower electrical current but slightly longer duration. They are likely to set things on fire. In fact, this is the source of approximately 7,500 forest fires in the US each year.

Fortunately, in much of the US, thunderstorms are usually accompanied by heavy rains that quench any fire that breaks out. However, many historic shade trees are destroyed by lightning. Often, the tree will not be killed instantly, but the open wound created by the lightning strike is an invitation to insects and fungi which can ultimately cause its death.

How Tree Lightning Protection Works

The best way to protect trees from a similar fate is to have lightning rods installed. The lightning rod is a simple device and is as effective at protecting trees as it is at protecting other structures such as barns.

The metal of the lightning rod provides an even better conductor than the moisture in the trunk, so the lightning bolt is guided down to earth without injuring the tree. While it may be impractical to install a rod in every tree on your landscape, you may narrow down the list of trees which must be protected from lightning by considering these factors:

  1. Species of tree. Certain tree species may be more or less susceptible to damage by lightning because of the characteristics unique to their species.
  2. Height of tree and its proximity to your home. Would lightning damage to trees endanger your safety or damage valuable property? If you are not sure whether or not you may require lightning protection, your best defense is to have a certified arborist inspect your trees and provide expert advice.
  3. Value of tree. Particularly old or important trees that would be difficult to replace often warrant additional protection.

Call today for a complimentary consultation from our fully trained and certified arborists. Click here to contact the office nearest you.

Protecting Your Home from Lightning Damage

As homes and buildings are equally at risk, our partner, Independent Protection Company (IPC), can design a lightning protection system tailored to the specifications of your house. IPC is a highly renowned manufacturer and designer of lightning protection equipment.