Check trees to prevent potential damage from falling limbs, trunks

Dec. 4, 2013
Contact Information:

Mary Hightower, Cooperative Extension Service Communications
501-671-2126 /

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Fast facts:
• Winter storm warning, watch in effect for much of Arkansas
• Ice up to .25 inch expected (See:

(350 words)
Check trees to prevent potential damage from falling limbs, trunks

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LITTLE ROCK – With the potential for a significant layer of ice this weekend, homeowners need to be examining their properties carefully to help prevent damage from falling trees or limbs, said Tamara Walkingstick, associate director of the Arkansas Forest Research Center and an extension forester for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.

The state’s major snowstorm last Christmas may also have caused hidden damage, bending or breaking the wood fiber under the bark, but not enough to prevent the branch from continuing to grow.

“The damage is still there and the extra weight of ice or snow can cause the total failure of the branch,” she said. “One way to tell is see if the branch is it bending more than it should, or if it appears to be pointing more toward the ground than other branches.

“If one of these branches is over someone's home and it's small enough for them to prune or remove safely, the homeowner might consider doing so to halt the chance of any damage,” Walkingstick said.

In addition, the danger for falling trees may be slightly increased by the ground-softening rains that have fallen in the last weeks.

“Soft ground means it’s easier for easier for wind and ice pressure to fell trees,” she said.

“Systematically inspecting trees allows you to find damaged or defective trees that could pose a threat to people or property,” she said. “Sound trees can withstand stronger winds than defective trees, so during storms the likelihood of tree failure is reduced.”

Walkingstick also said that certain fast-growing tree species are more vulnerable to tree damage during storms. They include:
• Chinese elm
• Silver maple
• Sycamore
• Boxelder
• Bradford pear
• Poplars
• River birches

“While homeowners should avoid planting such species close to buildings, utility lines, fences or anywhere potential damage could occur,” she said. “If such trees are already growing in these locations, some preventive practices, such as pruning and bracing, or cabling, may help reduce the potential of storm damage.

For more information on what to do after an ice storm, visit or contact your county extension office.

The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture and offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, marital or veteran status, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.