Wind, rain-saturated ground lead to greater chance of trees toppling over

By  | 

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. Winter, winter go away!!

Surely you'll be gone by May!!

A lot of us are ready for this long winter to be over and while we really haven't had an abundance of snow events, we have had plenty of cold, ice, wind, and rain.

And it's the wind and rain that's causing some concern about our trees.

The wind has been very noticeable lately. If you think it's been windier than usual lately, it's because it's true.

During the last month-and-a-half, we've had seven days in which wind gusts exceeded 40 miles-per-hour and reached speeds as high as 62 miles-per-hour leaving roofing companies busy, utility companies dealing with power outages, and truckers struggling to keep their rigs on the road.

Now take the high winds, combined with the heavy saturation of the soil from rain, and you've got a potential problem that KY3 gardner Dan Bigby pointed out to us on Wednesday in the backyard of a home in east Springfield near highway 65.

"I've seen about a half-a-dozen trees around town that have been totally uprooted, root ball and everything," Bigby said as he showed us a huge cherry tree that had fallen over because of the wind-saturated ground combination.

He estimated that the main trunk of the cherry tree weighed about a 1,000-pounds and the whole tree weighed in at around 7,000-pounds. .
"It got as close to the house without doing damage as you can possibly get," Bigby said as the limbs of the tree rested mere feet from the back of the house. "People have no idea how much energy is stored up in a tree this size. It would tear through a vehicle or a house with no resistance whatsoever. It would split your house right in half. Scary business."

He guessed that the tree was between 50 and 70 years-old, a long time to avoid this kind of fate.

"But today was its day", he said.

Bigby said weak root systems and a bad tap rootalso contribute to a tree's demise under these circumstances which is why it's virtually impossible to notice the warning signs.

"Most of these trees appear like they're completely healthy," he said. "Most of the problem is probably below the soil surface so it's hard to detect. People ask what they can do to prevent it. It's just a matter of physics. When the ground is wet and the wind is strong if that tree is leaning a little bit in the wrong direction, this is the result."

And Bigby says that older trees aren't necessarily more susceptible.

"The age of the tree would only play a part in that when they're top-heavy, it's going to cause problems," he explained. "The one thing that helps this time of year is that there's no leaf canopy. The more leaf canopy it catches the wind like a sail and then you have problems. As we get more rain you're going to see more of this happen."

Bigby said that if you have a large tree that is close to your house and leans in the direction of your home, you should have it checked out by a professional to see if it should be taken down or at-least cut back.