In the UK we don’t have tornados or hurricanes of any note, and we don’t suffer from seasonal tropical typhoons, but we do have the storm of October 1987 to remind us that, if there is an extreme wind disaster, there is a cost to not being prepared when it comes to tree maintenance.
In just a few hours, winds of up to 100mph wreaked havoc across the south of the country, cutting off electricity and transport routes, causing billions of pounds of damage, and blowing down around 15,000,000 trees.
The trees themselves fell on houses, cars, roads, train tracks, electricity cables and, very distressingly, people.
Some say it was the worst storm in Britain for three hundred years, and the clean-up took what seems like an age, but while incredibly severe, this kind of storm is not unique. Each year many storms hit the UK, and when they reach a certain ferocity they are given names. It’s an American concept, but you might have heard forecasters on the news talking about Storm Angus or Barbara, Conor or Doris during winter 2016/17. Winter 2017/18 brought us Aileen, Brian, Emma, and of course The Beast From The East. Winds of 70, 80 and 90 miles an hour buffeting the nation on a regular basis, each and every year.
How susceptible your garden trees and bushes are to damage in extreme winds will depend on many factors, including species of tree, width of trunk, height, and proximity to your home and other trees.
But why should you care about such things? Surely, if the tree has been there for hundreds of years it will ‘weather the storm’, as it were. Well, every homeowner thinks that up until they hear the crashing, splintering noise of tree on home or car (yours or your neighbours). And, of course, it’s the tree owner’s responsibility to ensure that everything possible is done to prevent such an event, or it could cost them dearly.
You cannot prepare for every eventuality – it’s nature and, therefore, often unpredictable, but sensible tree maintenance and regular risk assessments on tall trees or those close to structures or homes are essential.
Just because a tree has lived through many storms before, does not mean it will survive another. Weaknesses caused by successive storms, poor hydration, disease, infestation and more can increase risks. Excessive height or volume of crown can also increase risk. An annual inspection of the most vulnerable of trees in your garden and regular pruning within the parameters of a sensible maintenance plan to ensure the long-term health and structure of your trees is also advisable.
Here are three ways a tree surgeon can prepare your trees for high winds.