Hurricane season in Florida begins on June 1st and lasts for a total of 5 months – with the season’s peak in September.
In addition to these devastating storms, Florida also experiences the highest proportion of lightning strikes, rain occurrences, and high winds during this season.
All these disturbances can take a toll on your trees, increasing the chances that they’ll uproot unexpectedly or that weak branches will break off and cause collateral damage. However, this potential damage can easily be mitigated with proper tree assessment and service.
Fortunately, Alachua County was spared during Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Idalia, save a few downed branches. In the wake of a category 4 storm hitting the state, however, Floridians wonder — how do I keep my home safe when the next storm hits?
Hurricane season lasts until November 30th, so this question is of utmost importance. As tree experts with a heart for serving North Florida, we want to share what we’ve learned over the past 50 years to keep you safe and your liabilities low.
Put simply: healthy trees are better equipped to withstand storms! Proper tree maintenance before and during storm season can protect your property and reinforce your safety.
At Gaston’s Tree Service, our team is here to help you prepare your property for whatever comes your way — both before and after a storm. Read on for our tips on hurricane tree care.
Before the Storm
One of the smartest things you can do to ensure your landscape survives a storm intact is selecting and planting wind-resistant tree species away from any structures on your property.
While the trees closest to your house or utility lines aren’t any more susceptible to storm damage than other trees, they can be a lot more destructive. When storms come, the trees that matter most are the trees that threaten you and your family’s safety. By nature of their location, these trees are the most important to inspect and service first to ensure that there are no surprises when a storm hits.
To give you a head start on your personal check-in with your trees, some lessons learned from past hurricanes are detailed below:
- If you find your trees do not have ample space for their roots to grow, they may not be able to develop a reliable foundation.
- Palm species tend to endure hurricanes better than conifer trees.
- Trees with a lower center of gravity, such as oaks, tend to fare better than taller trees such as pines.
When you find out a storm is heading our way, the first thing to do is inspect your trees, looking specifically for the following signs of vulnerability or damage:
- Visible cracks on limbs or the trunk
- Signs of decay or hollowness
- Drooping branches
- Deformed branches
- Multiple joined trunks
These warning signs are detailed in our Guide to Gainesville Tree Maintenance. But, it is always best to have your trees inspected by a certified arborist. This professional can expertly assess the condition of your trees and advise if any are at risk of falling and should be removed before the storm comes. Trees can reveal root damage up to six months after a major storm. For this reason, it’s best practice to perform regular checks before it’s too late.
The next step to get your trees storm-ready is to remove any dead or dying limbs and branches that could detach from your trees and become flying hazards during high winds and heavy rain. Weak and damaged limbs can be easily ripped from a tree and dropped on nearby vehicles and buildings.
Keep your eyes peeled for:
- Leafless branches (while other branches are full of leaves)
- Large spots of fungus or disease
- Holes, missing bark, cracks, or other damage that may compromise the tree’s integrity
- Overly dense canopies
All these can be signs that your tree or its limbs are compromised. Be sure to address them immediately to avoid unwanted surprises.
For extensive pruning and to ensure you do not cause unnecessary damage to your trees, it is best to leave this task to professional arborists. This is especially important because if the tree’s root system or too much of the canopy is removed, making the entire tree a fall risk.
Trees sometimes require support like steel cables or wooden blocks to uphold their canopy or trunk. Adjustable straps on pre-made braces can prevent trunk bending in harsh weather. Young trees with weak roots are particularly vulnerable to strong winds and rain during hurricanes or storms.
To safeguard them, staking can prevent excessive bending and covering small trees shields them from extreme elements and debris. Additionally, when cultivating new trees, mulching can significantly aid in developing a robust, weather-proof root system.
After the Storm
Before attempting any sort of storm cleanup in your yard, survey the area carefully. If there are any downed electrical lines, assume it is live. Do not go anywhere near it. When you are able to go into your yard, be vigilant when walking under your trees in case of precariously attached limbs and branches.
When assessing your trees after a storm, it’s important to remember that even if your tree does not show any visible signs of damage, it is always best to have it checked out by professionals. This ensures your remaining trees are healthy.
When it is safe to go outside, cut away any low-hanging limbs and branches and gather them together. Remove any limbs or branches that block access to your home or property’s structures. Also, watch for detached limbs hanging from stable limbs. If they are not removed, they can become falling hazards and damage your property.
Pruning is vital; however, be careful not to over-prune. According to the University of Florida’s IFAS, removing too many live parts of your tree can hinder its regrowth. Trees use energy stored in their wood to grow, so, when you cut, use clean cuts to sever the part of the tree you are removing.
What Does Homeowners Insurance Cover During a Hurricane?
Homeowners insurance protects homeowners who take proper care of their trees. You will likely be supported by your insurance provider to cover the damages from healthy trees that could not stand the pressure of large storms. Homeowners with unmaintained trees, on the other hand, will need to make out-of-pocket reparations for damages caused by dead trees.
Be a Good Neighbor
Proper tree maintenance can also protect you from becoming a liability to your neighbors. Pay close attention to trees nearing boundary lines and fences.
In the state of Florida, landowners of healthy tree branches and roots are not responsible for damages to their neighbor’s property. Like in your own yard, landowners of dead trees will be held financially responsible.
Pro Tip: If you are this household whose neighbor’s healthy but overgrown tree branches are encroaching on your property, you could be liable for damages during a hurricane. Keep an eye out for concerning growth.
Gaston’s Helps Your Trees Weather the Storm
If you are uncertain of your ability to assess or service the trees on your property, contact us today for a trustworthy inspection of your trees to make sure they are ready for any severe weather headed our way.
While much of your storm preparation can be accomplished on your own with common yard tools, some of it will likely require a professional with specialized equipment. To give your trees the best chance possible of health and vitality, rely on Gaston’s Tree Service as your all-season property maintenance team.
We’ve provided top-notch emergency tree service and storm protection to North Central Florida for 50 years. With certified arborists on staff, the experts at Gaston’s Tree Service can assess, estimate, service, and remove your trees with excellence – so you can rest assured that your home will be protected this storm season.