Trees after a hurricane may be worse than they appear

On September 10, 2017, Hurricane Irma hit Florida, wreaking havoc on everything in its path, including people, places and plants.

The eye of the storm bypassed Orange County, but the area still saw hours of heavy rain and extreme winds. Gusts clocked in at nearly 80 miles per hour by the Orlando International Airport.

Right after the storm blew through, about 900,000 homes and businesses were left without power. Apopka Arborist Adam Jackson of The Davey Tree Expert Company’s Orlando office along with more than 1,000 other employees from Davey helped identify tree hazards and remove them so that power companies could restore electricity quickly after Irma here in Florida and Harvey in Texas.

While the initial downed trees were cleaned up as swiftly as possible, the trees that initially looked fine after the storm may need a closer inspection now.

“Trees are slow growers,” Jackson said. “It can take them a long time to show the impact that a serious weather event, like Irma, had on them. All that standing water wasn’t good for their roots.”

Jackson and other arborists are encouraging homeowners to get out and look for “zombie trees.” Essentially, these are trees that looked okay after the storm but are just starting to show signs of trouble. Some may be able to be saved while others may be dying and need to be removed. Either way, they can present danger to unsuspecting property owners.

With the anniversary of Irma around the corner, Jackson says now is a great time to inspect and restore the trees in your yard.

Signs Your Tree Needs Attention:

  1. Dead Wood or Decay – Dead trees and branches can fall at any time on anything. Jackson says to look for leafless branches when others have plenty of green leaves. Another sign of dead wood is old bark that has mostly fallen and hasn’t been replaced with new bark — instead, there is only smooth wood underneath.
  2. Cracks– Branches can twist, bend and crack during a storm. Check for deep splits in the bark that extend into the wood of the tree or internal or external cavities.
  3. Heavy Canopies– Assess the crown of your tree to check for large, broken limbs. “Proper pruning thins the tree canopy, allowing wind to blow through it instead of against it as though it was a sail,” Jackson says.
  4. Root Problems– High winds can cause trees to rock, even causing the severing of roots in some cases. Check to see if a tree is leaning to tell if it’s been affected. Without a strong root system, trees are more likely to be uprooted or blown over in storms.
  5. Poor Tree Architecture– This is characterized by excessive leaning of the tree, or branches growing out of proportion with the rest of the tree crown. Odd growth patterns may indicate general weakness or structural imbalance.
  6. Discolored Foliage – Heavy flooding can temporarily drown a tree and cause leaves to wilt or die-back earlier than they should.

Although defective trees are dangerous, not all of them need to be removed immediately, and some defects can be treated to prolong the life of the tree.

Seek a consultation with a certified arborist to evaluate tree species, soil conditions, wind exposure, defects, overall health, and other factors to determine a tree’s hazard potential.

Ready to see if your yard has any zombies? Contact Jackson at 407-331-8020 or visit


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