During periods of heavy snowfall or sleet, all trees can be susceptible to breakage. The age, health or size of the tree doesn’t matter though dying or diseased trees are usually more prone to damage.
In the Pacific NW, downed trees or broken branches can happen in the snow for a multitude of reasons.
How does snow damage trees?
First off, snow and ice are heavy. When it accumulates on trees, it adds a lot of weight that the tree may not be prepared to hold. When temperatures drop exceptionally low, the water contained in the tree can also freeze, making the wood more rigid and brittle.
Branches that are already overextended and too heavy are the ones that typically break first. The large branches that break off can also fall into other branches, which can create a domino effect that takes more branches off as it falls to the ground.
Downed trees are common
Branches are not the only parts of the trees to consider. Many times, snow accumulates at the crown or top of the tree, causing it to bow over. When this happens, it can lead to the top of the tree breaking off or the whole tree falling over.
During our rainy season the ground gets saturated, which is why an entire tree (roots and all) will topple over, especially during one of our famous windstorms that are often a part of our snow events.
What can you do?
Whenever it begins to snow or sleet, keep an eye on your trees to see if they are bending excessively. While many trees are too big to shake snow from its branches, you can shake snow off smaller ornamental trees. This should be done as often as possible as they are more susceptible to breaking.
If a tree looks like it is at risk of breaking, be sure to call a certified arborist. They may suggest removing the tree, reducing the weight by eliminating limbs or pruning to clean up whatever breaks have already happened.
Maintenance pruning can limit damage
If you want to be proactive and minimize the risk of breakage, have a certified arborist prune your trees before winter arrives. They can remove dead, diseased or dying branches that are weak and more prone to breakage.
They may also thin the crown of the tree by removing some branches so when it does snow, there’s less branches on which it can accumulate. Less branches means less weight and that’s better for the tree.
Make regular pruning by a tree professional a part of landscape maintenance and your trees will be stronger, healthier and better able to withstand damaging winter weather.
Eastside Tree Works services the Seattle metro area, North Bend and the entire eastside, from Woodinville down to Auburn. Contact us for your free estimate.