Before the Storm
As winter storms approach, it's important to know the best way to prepare your landscape. And after the snow and ice fall, it's crucial to know what you can address yourself and what to leave to a professional cleanup crew.
Know an Arborist
If you suspect severe weather will damage trees on your property, have a certified arborist or tree care professional on standby to address storm damage. If you do not know an arborist, hire one after the storm has passed. When hiring an arborist, ask for an up-to-date certificate of insurance and copy of their work contract. Try to hire a company with an International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) certified arborist. Avoid companies offering poor practices like "topping', which can damage your trees.
Identify Trouble Spots
Before the storm hits, identify areas on your property that will be vulnerable to damaging winds, as well as ice and snow accumulation. Look for cracks in tree trunks or major limbs. Check for leaning trees and branches hanging over the roof. If trees appear too close to a utility line, hire a certified arborist to evaluate the situation.
Heavy ice accumulation can cause damage to trees, causing limbs to fall from excess weight. To prevent damage to your home, vehicles or other personal property, remove dead, diseased or damaged limbs before the storm hits. Have leaning trees inspected. Prune branches that are too close to your house and over the street. Also check your gutters and remove debris, such as leaves. This will help ensure excess water is not trapped in the gutters when they freeze.
NOTE: There is nothing you can do while a winter storm is in progress. Your property is not more important than your life. Do not hesitate to get assistance.
After the Storm
Safely Evaluate Storm Damage
After a storm has passed, evaluate damage to your property with a few caveats. Be on the alert - stay away from utility lines and dangling branches. If your personal safety is not in question, look for trees leaning against or touching power lines. Evaluate trees by seeing if major limbs are still intact. Any tree damage NOT on the ground should only be handled by a tree care professional.
Repair Minor Storm Damage
Only attempt to repair tree damage if you are properly trained to do so. Take extreme care when working outside in winter - the ground may be frozen and slick. Make sure you are working from solid footing with good traction. Windy conditions can increase the risk of slipping, so consider delaying work until you are absolutely confident in your work environment.
Remove any broken branches or stubs still attached to the tree. Since frozen wood is harder than non-frozen wood, you may want to decrease the saw chain's filing angle by five degrees. Decreasing the chain's angle increases cutting performance in frozen woods and decreases the wear to your guide bar and saw chain. If your chainsaw model has a winter/summer shutter, use it to prevent carburetor icing.
When evaluating storm damage, proceed with caution. Birds or other wildlife may be taking shelter in trees. Immediately report any branches or debris touching utility lines to your local utility company. Clearing storm damage is very dangerous. When in doubt, call your arborist.