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Living With Mature Trees in Our Yards

Despite recent storm damage from falling trees, it is important to keep in mind the positive effects trees have in suburban yards.

The aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene saw many fallen trees that damaged homes, property, and power lines. Since the majority of the damage was caused by downed trees, I wondered if there was anything that could be done ahead of time to reduce damage from trees during a storm.

I spoke with John McDeshen of Tall Tree Service in Severna Park and asked if there are any measures that homeowners can take to prevent trees from striking their houses. He told me that there really is very little people can do to keep a tree from falling and damaging their home.

In his opinion, based on over 20 years of experience in the tree business, the combination of high winds and saturated soil can cause mature trees to fall.

McDeshen said winds in excess of 40 miles per hour will cause tree branches and pine trees to fall. When winds are in excess of 60 miles per hour, like during Irene, large hardwood trees such as oaks and tulip poplars will begin to come down. The saturated soil added to the problem from the strong winds and caused trees to uproot from the soil.

McDeshen stated that he often receives calls from concerned property owners asking him to remove a dead tree from their yard when a severe storm is in the forecast. He advises that a dead tree will be less likely to fall in a storm because it does not have the mass of leaves or needles to catch the wind.

In the event a tree falls during a storm and damages your house, it's a good idea to keep all receipts for any out of pocket expenses related to removing the tree and initiating repairs to your home.

Notify your insurance agent about the damage and the repairs that will be needed. Generally, the owner of the damaged property is responsible for filing a claim with their insurance company whether the fallen tree is from their yard or a neighboring yard.  If you are unsure of the level of coverage with your homeowner’s policy then contact your agent to review your policy and coverage before the next storm.

Despite all the pictures and stories in the media during the past week showing destruction of property by falling trees, there are many benefits to having trees in our yards. 

According to the Arbor Day Foundation, mature shade trees in a yard can help reduce cooling costs in summer, reduce carbon dioxide levels, and increase property value.

The USDA Forestry Service states the benefits of planting of trees “means improved water quality, resulting in less runoff and erosion. This allows more recharging of the ground water supply. Wooded areas help prevent the transport of sediment and chemicals into streams.” Trees, especially native species, also provide necessary habitat for wildlife.

While storm damage from trees can be very upsetting to homeowners and cause a great deal of inconvenience due to interrupted electrical service, the benefits of having trees in our yards will usually outweigh the negative effects from storm damage.

Valerie Avedon Gardiner September 06, 2011 at 05:46 PM
I am one of those people that called John at Tall Tree in the days before Irene! We came in from out of town and realized we need tree work done. Badly! But he was all booked up. We were fortunate during the storm, but I am not pushing my luck, even though I did not realize that trees with fewer leaves may actually stay put. Thanks for the article and the reminder to get him back over here to weed out the dead!!

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