Preparing Your Trees for Winter

Trees can be badly damaged during severe winter storms. Trees are biologically engineered to adjust to most of the things that “Mother Nature” dishes up. Sometimes, however, trees are not able to compensate for catastrophic events, and a failure occurs. By identifying problems and dealing with them before winter storms occur, some emergencies can be avoided.

Trees on Private Property

If you have concerns about trees on your private property, contact a Hansen’s Arborist to inspect trees for defects and weakness in branches that otherwise may go unnoticed. Large trees are an extremely valuable asset to both the individual property owner and the community. An investment in pruning or inspection can help prevent damage from wind, snow or ice, and help preserve those irreplaceable older trees that add so much to the character and heritage of our city.

Preventative Maintenance

Strategic pruning to prevent branch failure is a good idea for both the trees and the people who live around them. Trees that are pruned regularly should be more resistant to storm damage as a result of the removal of structurally weak branches, decreased surface area of lateral branches and decreased wind resistance.

Trees that have their canopies covered with ivy or vines may not be able to withstand the additional wind or snow load caused by the extra leaf area of the vines. Removal of invasive vines is important to the health of your trees.


Trees that have structural defects may incur storm damage from snow, ice or wind. Some defects to look for are:

  • Dead Wood – dead trees and large dead branches are unpredictable. Dead wood is brittle, and cannot bend in the wind like a living tree or branch. Branches that are already broken off and hanging in the tree should receive prompt attention.
  • Cracks – A crack is a deep split in the tree, which extends through the bark and into the wood of the tree. Cracks are indicators of potential branch or tree failure.
  • Decay – a “hollow” tree can be prone to failure, but presence of decay does not necessarily indicate that the tree is hazardous. Trees usually decay from the inside, forming a cavity. At the same time, new wood is added to the outside of the tree as it grows. If the outer shell is sound, the tree may be relatively safe. Evaluating the safety of a decaying tree is best left to a trained arborist.
  • Root Problems – Trees with damaged roots may blow over in wind storms. Have your tree checked if over half of the roots have been crushed or cut, if the tree is starting to lean and soil is “pushing up” around the base of the tree on the side opposite the lean, or if decay is present in the buttress roots or base of the tree.
  • Poor Tree Composition – An example of this would be a tree with a weak branch attachment, a large branch that is out of proportion with the rest of the tree, or a tree that leans excessively. Not all leaning trees are hazardous, but if you’re concerned about the tree, it should be examined by a professional arborist. Weak branch attachments (typically, these are narrow “forks” in the tree) are also best evaluated by a professional arborist.


Prune your trees to remove dead or weakened limbs, starting when they are young. DON’T TOP TREES! Larger trees can benefit from having excess branches thinned from their crowns, which lets wind pass through. You should be able to see into your tree, but not through it!

Keep your trees healthy by caring for them all year long. Proper watering, mulching, fertilizing and pruning will help them be an asset to your property and the community for years to come.

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