Weathering a Storm

washington dc superstorm: big tree down (credit: woodleywonderworks on Flickr)

D.C. is slowly recovering from some of the most destructive complexes of thunderstorms (known as a derecho) to sweep through the area in recent memory. Winds packing gusts of 60-80 mph were especially unkind to our area’s trees. Many medium and large canopy trees were uprooted or suffered loss of branches. Now is the time to inspect trees on and surrounding your property for damage and treat them as necessary.

If you noticed a street tree – a tree located between the sidewalk and street – with any damaged limbs or was completely fallen call the Citywide Comment Line at 311. Be ready to provide them with a street address or intersection of where the damaged tree is located. You will be given a reference number that will allow you to track the request. You can dial 311 on your phone or go to to file a request. Alternatively, you can place the service request using the new DC311 smartphone application for Android or iPhone.

If the damaged tree is on private property, the property owner is responsible for the care or removal of the tree. It is important that damaged trees be promptly examined by a certified arborist to determine its structural stability, prevent or treat infection and/or provide restoration pruning. While lawn care professionals are great and potentially more affordable than arborists, they are not tree experts.

If a large tree has lost or damaged branches, its food source may irreparably damaged. The amount of food a tree can generate for itself is based on its leaf surface. Less leaf surface, less food. Simply removing the branches may be futile if the tree will not be able to sustain itself. A certified arborist can tell you the likelihood of it surviving.

A tree can also generate several sprouts to compensate for the loss of branches. These shoots compete with one another for nutrients and threaten a tree’s structure and stability. A certified arborist will be able to select which shoot to make the lead and over time prune the rest.

Lastly if a branch break is left exposed you are putting out a welcome mat out for infections. Remember, trees are just like any other living organism and can develop infections. They are not immune. A certified arborist can determine where to cut the branch back to so the most foliage – its food maker – can be kept.

As D.C. cleans up, we will post tips and resources on our blog throughout the week to help you assess whether your damaged tree can be saved, how to prepare your trees for future storms and how to replace lost or damaged trees at no or minimal cost.

Photo credit: woodleywonderworks on Flickr.

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