Spring thunderstorms put Dallas-area trees to the test

In this article from the Dallas Morning News, Brian Cox, district manager of Davey's Dallas office, tells readers about storm damage and the toll it can take on trees.

Posted: June 1, 2015

By Thomas Korosec 

In front of Skillman Church of Christ near Tietze Park, a 25-foot limb split off the trunk of a massive red oak and crashed to the lawn. A few blocks away, a Bradford pear split nearly in half. A few more blocks down the street, a small hackberry was uprooted completely and toppled to the ground.

Such was the toll in one small section of Old East Dallas after a gusty Memorial Day weekend thunderstorm passed through. Arborists say the damage is not surprising, given how the recent waves of drenching rain following nearly five years of drought have affected trees. Since March 1, the Dallas-Fort Worth area has had about 20 inches of rain, more than 10 inches above normal, with more rain predicted this weekend, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“We get several types of damage with storms, the worst typically due to weak root systems,” says Brian Cox, a certified arborist and district manager for the Davey Tree Expert Co. “Sometimes, what may look like a healthy tree can fall right over.”

Drought keeps trees from developing sufficient roots to anchor them, and the problems can persists for years, even after drought breaks.

“When trees dip into their energy reserve during drought, their roots might not grow as they normally would. It’s like they’re dipping into a savings account,” Cox says. Trees are slow to react, he says, and don’t immediately return to health after conditions improve.

Saturated soil

Many trees already have highly diminished root systems due to the past drought-plagued years, agrees Billy Cook, chief arborist at Preservation Tree Services. Saturated soil can magnify the problem, Cook says in an email. Weakened roots in heavily saturated soil can fail structurally if the soil heaves, he says. Soil heaving is a swelling of the subsoil due to increases in ground water from heavy rainfall, flooding or plumbing leaks.

A tree that is already stressed, has a compromised root system, or is leaning is especially susceptible to toppling over under heavy rain and storm conditions, Cook says.

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