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Ice Storm Damage Repair


Please roll mouse over photo to see After & Before

After: Here is the tree following restoration work by Jim McSweeney. Notice how the branches are now free to extend without the heavy weight of the ice and snow. The client was very happy to see that her tree was alive and well again.

Before: This is a photo of a tree that sustained severe damage after a December 08 ice storm in Goshen, MA. The Hilltowns like Goshen face a more brutal winter than what occurs in the towns at a lower altitude in the neighboring Pioneer Valley.

A tree damaged during a December 08 ice storm in Goshen, MA before and after Jim McSweeney, certified arborist and horticulturalist, restored it.

I was heartsick when I saw what the ice storm had done to the beautiful old birch tree in our front yard. Jim assured me it would be fine and now it is hard to tell that the tree suffered any damage at all. Thanks to Jim and his hard working crew.

Melanie Dana, Goshen, MA


How To Manage Your Ice Storm Damaged Trees

(Also see Jim's upcoming workshops on Tree Management and the Ice Storm)
Certified arborist and horticulturalist Jim McSweeney performing restoration work on an ice storm damaged tree in the hilltown of Goshen, in Western Mass.

The following frequently asked questions give homeowners and public officials alike tips for being better prepared when faced with damaged trees following severe weather or due to other unforeseen circumstances.

The ice storm of December '08 was not your typical ice storm. With almost an inch of ice in some areas, it caused tree damage that few have ever seen in the Hilltowns or Western Mass. Many people wanted to know, "What do I do now?" That question is answered below.

Bracing and guying a large tree is dangerous and must confirm to the ANSI Safety Standards for pruning and tree maintenance or removal.

1) Who do you call?

Bracing and guying a large tree is dangerous and must confirm to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) regulations  for pruning and tree maintenance or removal. Your two main options are a landscaper or an arborist. A landscaper may be sufficient if you are dealing with fallen trees already on the ground or need brush chipped or removed from the property. However, in most cases you will find that an arborist would better suit your needs. Evaluating the health of storm damaged trees, the technical removal of trees near houses and the reconstructing pruning of large trees should all be done by a certified arborist. A "certified arborist" is someone who is certified in tree care by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) or the Massachusetts Arborist Association (MAA). This a professional that brings a certain level of knowledge and competence to your landscape. The arborist should be able to provide proof of workman's compensation and liability insurance before he/she does any work. If an arborist balks at this request look for another one.

2) Develop a plan.

Jim McSweeney at work on a damaged tree. He is skilled in the technical removal, pruning, guying, propping, bracing, cabling and inspection of large trees like this one.

Whether you are a homeowner or a municipality, you need a plan. This plan could range from a 15 minute written evaluation of tree damage on your property to an in depth evaluation of an entire towns tree damage, with maps, GPS coordinates, photos and assistance using possible Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) money for the pruning & cleanup. All plans should start with an evaluation of the trees in the most visual and commonly used areas followed by lower traffic areas. All trees must be inspected in a systematic fashion with an evaluation of the roots, trunk and crown. Special priority should be given to any "hazard trees" (trees with a defect and a target). The plan, written to ANSI A300 standards (pruning industry standards), should clearly state which trees are to be pruned.

  • Include a statement that all work shall be performed in accordance with ANSI A300 Pruning and the ANSI Z133.1 Safety Standards.
  • Include clearly defined pruning objectives.
  • Specify the pruning types to be performed to meet the objectives.
  • State the size specifications of the minimum and/or maximum branch size to be removed.
  • Specify the maximum amount (expressed as a percentage) of live tissue that can be removed.

Without the above minimum written specifications an arborist bidding on a pruning job may be thinking one thing with the homeowner / town manager thinking another. All certified arborists should be familiar with and follow the A300 or Z133 standards.

3) When to prune?

"Removal of dying, diseased, broken, rubbing or dead limbs can be accomplished at any time, with little negative effect on the tree." ANSI A300. Some people are concerned with the sap flowing from the cuts to their maples or birches. However, "although unattractive, sap drainage has little negative affect on tree growth or health." (ANSI A300)

4) Is their anything else that might help my tree?

There are various other things that an arborist can do to aid in a tree's longevity and appearance.

  • Tree Support Systems - These include cabling, bracing, guying and propping trees. These have clearly defined methods of installation as defined in the ANSI A300 standards.
  • Water & Mulch - Both can be a vital part to any proper management of landscape trees of shrubs. They become all the more important when a plant has been stressed.
  • Monitoring - The importance of this can not be understated. If a certified arborist is doing yearly inspections of your trees and landscape it is much easier to identify and correct an issue before it becomes a major problem. This, again, is especially important on trees or shrubs in the landscape that are stressed.

5) Can this be avoided in the future?

The way existing trees in your landscape are managed may have a direct effect on how they weather the next storm.

  1. By reducing drag (wind resistance on the crown) - this is true of all pruning types.
  2. By lowering the height of the pressure center of the crown - this is only true of reduction pruning.

Pruning can thus reduce "bending moment", the product of drag and height of the pressure center"

  • Reducing Storm Damage in Urban Forests: A Pruning Guide
  • Dr. Brian Kane, UMass, Dr. Roger Harris & Dr. Susan Day, Virginia Tech
  • U.S. Forest Service Publication

When replacing a tree, the choice of species and its location in the landscape are important factors to consider.

6) Where can I learn more about how to manage my ice storm damaged trees?

To read research on Ice Storm Damage Repair, click on the PDFs and Web Site links below for more information...


PDFs

An Assessment of Management History of Damaged and Undamaged Trees 8 Years After the Ice Storm in Rochester, New York, U.S. Evaluation of the Fate of Ice Storm-Damaged Urban Maple (Acer) Trees Ice Storm Damage to Urban Trees
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An Assessment of Management History of Damaged and Undamaged Trees 8 Years After the Ice Storm in Rochester, New York, U.S.
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Evaluation of the Fate of Ice Storm-Damaged Urban Maple (Acer) Trees
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Ice Storm Damage to Urban Trees

Web Site Links