Monitoring your trees for hazards and breakage

Some tree species (boxelder, Chinese elm, cottonwood, poplars, silver maples, and willows) have brittle wood, which is easily broken in storms. These rapid-growing trees are prone to damage. Homeowners should be aware of these characteristics and avoid planting such species close to buildings, utilities, pedestrian areas, etc. where damage could occur. Preventive practices, such as pruning and bracing, or cabling, may help reduce the potential of storm damage if these trees are already growing in these locations.

Structural Weakness

There are often clues indicating that a tree is prone to failure. If a tree has large branches attached with tight, V-shaped forks, you should consider having those branches removed or lightened. Other warning signs of structural instability include cracks in the trunk or major limbs, hollow and decayed areas, or the presence of extensive dead wood. Mushrooms growing from the base of the tree or under its canopy may be an indication of root decay. However, just because you may not see fungus growth does not mean there is no decay. Be highly suspicious of any tree that has had construction activities such as trenching, addition or removal of soil, digging or heavy equipment movement anywhere under the spread of its branches. These activities can cause root death, which in turn could lead to the structural instability of the tree. By not paying attention to your trees, you are potentially placing your property, even your life, and that of others, in jeopardy.

Watching for Electrical Hazards

Even a healthy and otherwise safe tree can become hazardous if it is growing close to electric power lines. Any tree that has limbs within 3 m (10 ft) of overhead lines should be considered hazardous as anyone who touches or climbs a tree while it is resting on a live power line can be electrocuted. If you suspect a hazard condition, it will pay to have your tree evaluated by a professional. You could be held responsible for any damage or personal injury caused by a tree on your property.