Extreme Weather Series: Heavy Snowfall

27th March 2019

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We may be past the typical snowy months, but you never know – in 1975 a game of cricket between Derbyshire and Lancashire in Buxton was interrupted by snowfall in June. With global warming and climate change making the weather all the more unpredictable, we never know what’s just around the corner, and while a part of us might romanticise branches dusted with snow, trees aren’t nearly as hardy as you might think they are. It can actually be quite dangerous to have limbs groaning under the weight of freshly fallen snow.

The sound of wood snapping under such a strain could be the sound of a lawsuit in the making if any branches of your tree fall on your neighbour’s property, or, heaven forbid, on your neighbour themselves... March 2018 brought with it Storm Emma, and the wet heavy snow of that spring storm was more than some trees could take. This year be prepared, call in your local arborist to assess the strength of your trees to withstand such weather, and if your trees are found wanting, your tree surgeon will be able to take the appropriate action.

Always prepare for the worst
You can limit a lot of damage through pruning and maintaining trees properly throughout the year – especially through the dormant season – to create a strong and healthy structure before the snow comes. This will give them the best chance of getting through bad weather, whether snow, wind or flood.

Repair and recover
If you haven’t pruned throughout the year, never fear, there’s still lots that can be done. The first step is to assess any damage after a snowfall, and there are a few key questions to take into account. Is the main leader still intact? Does it still have 50% of its crown and most of the major branches? And finally, is the tree healthy? If the answer to all of these is ‘yes’, it should recover in time. This may take several years for deciduous trees, and some trees, like conifers and spruces, may need specialist pruning to make them hardy enough to weather the next storm.

The main time when you need to intervene is when larger branches are damaged, as the tree may be lost if it is not given proper care. If only small branches are affected, then it’s likely that the tree will carry on without needing any help.

What not to do
Your first instinct when seeing a tree with branches bowed under a heavy burden of snow may be to give it a good shake, but you need to fight this impulse as you may damage the tree’s circulatory system and do more harm than good. There’s also your own safety to consider. Before you intervene, you need to assess the tree, making sure there are no power lines tangled in the branches, and that the branches aren’t covered in ice. If you can see ice, then leave it to thaw before doing anything else. If no power lines or ice are visible then use an extension pole to urge the branches up, taking care to be aware of anything that may fall on you.

To find out more about how your trees can be prepared and protected from snowfall all year round, call us on 0208 292 8992. We’re always happy to pop round or to help with a little advice.

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