Storm Season 2017: Checking the trees in your yard

By Saundra Weathers, Reporter
Last Updated: Tuesday, September 12, 2017, 1:24 PM EDT

The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season begins June 1, which means it might be a good time to take a look at the trees in your yard.

Larry Snow, who owns a home in Lakeland, said checking the trees is something he did after one fell into his rental property in 2015.

"The house was basically covered by the tree," Snow said. "We had one hole in the roof ... and the water was just pouring in on hardwood floors."

Snow said nobody was injured, but it could have been worse because he said a woman was in the living room when the tree crashed down.

Snow said he thought his bad luck with trees was over after the 2015 incident. But when storms struck the area again the next year, he had another tree fall on his home, located a few miles down the road from his rental property.

"It's like having a fire twice or having two automobile accidents with neither one of them your fault," he said. "It doesn't make any difference, but it still happened."

The two incidents were enough for Snow. It was time to take more precautions.

He had a massive tree in front of his home removed this year for hurricane season.

Tree experts don't want Floridians to have to learn the lesson the hard way, so they are offering some tips.

"There's no magic bullet that's going to foolproof a tree against a storm," said Steven Braden, senior arborist and owner of Hurricane Tree Specialists.

There are some things homeowners should consider before hiring a tree-trimming company, Braden said.

"As much as a tree provides a threat to a residence, it also does provide some protection, as well," he said. "So, there's kind of a fine line between overdoing it and taking trees down needlessly. Trees protect the home because they diffuse the wind. For instance, you would see rows of them planted as wind breaks on properties. And a properly pruned tree will let a certain amount of the wind flow through."

The best thing homeowners can do, according to Braden, is educate themselves. It's something they can do by looking out of their window.

Here are three examples (pictured above in the main photo) of trees to look out for:

  • The first example is a tree with a wide-open, U-shaped union. It shows really good tree architecture, one that would be more likely to weather a storm.
  • The second example is a V-shaped branch that shows there's a weakened area of the tree. It has something called bark inclusion between the stems. This type of structure would be more likely to fall during a storm.
  • The third example is a limb that has been topped or cut years ago and now has new stems growing. This one is susceptible to falling during a storm because of the level of decay in the main stem that was topped or cut.

Residents can also cut their neighbor's tree limbs if they extend over into the adjoining property, but only if the limbs cross the property line. This situation could get complicated, and people should come to an agreement that's best for both parties.

Legal experts said that if you're a homeowner with a tree in your yard that falls and damages your neighbor's property, and the tree is live and healthy, then it's their responsibility. However, if the tree falls from your yard and damages a neighbor's property and the tree is rotten, then it's your responsibility.