Winter storms don’t have to spell disaster for trees


Recent storms have dumped a load of snow on Nebraska, but the warm temperatures have been welcomed with open arms. Take advantage of the warm temperatures to look for potential problems in your landscape.

Heavy snow and ice build-up on plants can cause some problems. Sufficient build-up can lead to broken limbs or even split limbs and trunks. Ideally, let the ice and snow melt naturally from the limbs. If the snow weighs down the tree or limbs, gently brush the snow off. Do not cut a branch to knock off the snow or ice, this can cause more damage to the plants.

Finally, inevitably somewhere along the line there will be some storm damage to trees. The Nebraska Forest Service has a few tips for homeowners dealing with storm-damaged trees:

Safety at all times. Be careful around trees during and after extreme weather. Falling limbs and debris can be hazards long after the storm has passed.

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Examine the trees for cracks or cracks in the trunk. This may indicate a structural problem with the wood. If you think a tree has sustained structural damage, contact an arborist.

Never climb a damaged tree to remove limbs or attempt to clean a leaning tree.

Be wary of individuals going door-to-door to get your business, use a local reputable service.

Pass on offers to top your tree. Topping damages the tree and increases the likelihood of structural problems and the trees’ recovery time after a storm.


Wait for the ice and snow to melt off the trees before pruning.

Check the entire tree before pruning. First, remove any dead, diseased or broken branches that can be easily reached from the ground.

If more than 50% of the tree’s branches need to be removed due to storm damage, contact an arborist and consider removing the tree.

Make sure you have the correct information from a reputable source. If you are dealing with large trees or trees with significant storm damage, contact a certified arborist. Don’t know who is a certified arborist in the area? You can go to several places to find a list of certified arborists. You can look at the Nebraska Arborist Association or the International Society of Arboriculture web pages. Both offer a ‘find arborists’ search for listings of certified arborists in your area.

If you are able to do the pruning yourself, get all the facts to ensure that you are not only pruning correctly, but also safely. Winter is one of the best times of the year to prune deciduous trees. It can also be one of the most potentially damaging seasons for trees, as well as a dangerous season for homeowners who prune themselves. Getting all the correct facts and asking for help can mean a safe season for everyone. The Nebraska Forest Service has several publications that cover all tree-related topics, even pruning storm-damaged trees. This information can be found at

Deciduous trees shed their leaves in the fall, giving us a few reasons to prune them in the winter. The branching structure is more easily seen in winter due to the lack of leaves on the trees. When trees have leaves, they make food. This food is transported through the tree as sap. In winter, the tree has no leaves, therefore it does not cook and there is minimal sap flow. If the tree is pruned in the spring, the end of March or the beginning of April, the sap is already flowing throughout the tree. The cut surfaces ooze or bleed sap, which attracts insects and other wildlife. This can increase the potential for disease attack as well as the potential for the tree to not heal as quickly as it would during the winter months.

Take advantage of the warm weather and do a small scouting trip in your countryside. With the right care and maintenance, winter storms don’t have to spell disaster for your trees.

Elizabeth Exstrom is a Horticulture Extension Educator with Nebraska Extension in Hall County. Contact her at 308-385-5088 or [email protected] Follow her blog at her blog at or check out HuskerHort on Facebook and Twitter.

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