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Flood Preparedness: Watch for Sick Trees

Following the recent severe weather in the Midwest and MidAtlantic, homeowners got a few tips from Davey Tree on how to care for their trees after a flood. This piece, written by Ben Sobieck, ran in LivingReadyOnline on June 13. 

Posted June 13, 2013

Davey Tree submitted these tips for flood preparedness and tree management. The two might seem unrelated, but they actually have quite a bit in common. Sick trees are more likely to become dislodged during a flood. They can cause damage to your property or to a neighboring area.

root failure

Even healthy trees can be a concern in flood-prone areas. This is especially true after a flood. From Davey Tree:

  • Flooding can drown a tree’s roots and the root cells die due to the lack of oxygen
  • Organic matter decomposition releases carbon dioxide, methane, hydrogen sulfide and other harmful gases
  • Foliage submerged for prolonged periods will have a difficult time recovering
  • Floating debris can cause damage to the tree and bark
  • Excessive water removes soil from root zones and leads to an instable trunk

The best way to address these issues is to either remove the tree yourself or get in touch with an arborist. In either case, the decision should be a thoughtful one. Trees take too long to grow and add too much value to property to jump into a decision.

storm tree falling

5 Things to Watch for with Trees 

Davey Tree suggested watching for these five factors when it comes to trees:

  • Structural damage
  • Premature fall color
  • Wilted leaves, discolored foliage and die-back are all caused by flooding
  • The emergence of pest infestations
  • Exposed roots or unstable trunk

Tree Management Options

Total removal of a tree isn’t always necessary. Here are some other options to consider, as offered by Davey Tree.

  • Corrective pruning of dead/broken branches
  • Re-setting or staking trees that are unstable or leaning
  • Flush sediments and leach the soil
  • Pest management as needed
  • Add mulching to protect new sensitive roots and improve aeration
  • Management of mineral nutrition with micro-nutrients and slow-release nitrogen sources
  • Where salt water has intruded, the soil may need to be leached to remove the sodium
  • Sediment deposits should be removed to return soil level to original grade
  • Trees that are kept in a healthy condition will be better able to withstand massive flooding

In any case, the goal is always to have trees that can stay strong before and after a flood.
Don’t skip this straightforward and important bit of flood preparedness. 


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