Prepare Your Trees Well Before a Hurricane

Stan Rosenthal
Extension Faculty
Leon County Extension

With tropical systems swirling, this is the time of year many people begin to question the safety of trees around their homes.

Root defects are a common problem and make the tree more likely to fall over in high wind events. Photo Credits: Theresa Friday, Santa Rosa County

For the last couple of decades, almost every time a hurricane hits Florida, the University of Florida has sent out crews of researchers to evaluate the damage to our urban forest.

One consistent reason for trees falling during high wind events is restricted root space, such as parking lot islands or big trees in small yards or confined areas. These trees are more likely to blow over in hurricanes.

Trees that have had construction activities within about 20 feet of their trunk also are more likely to blow over. The construction activity and resulting root damage may have occurred over a decade before. The tree may appear to be fine before the storm. But its stability will still be compromised in a storm.

It was also found that compacted soils, with a shallow rooting zone, make for poor root environments and can make a tree more likely to blow over. This is all the more reason not to compact soil under trees by parking cars or equipment under them.

It also makes a difference on how good a job you do when planting a tree, as root defects like girdling or circling roots cause trees to blow over.

Finally, even healthy looking trees can blow down if supportive roots have decayed or the soil becomes soft from water saturation.

Much more information on trees and storms can be found at the University of Florida's webpage