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Time to Weatherize Your Trees to Reduce Hazards During Storms


With fall weather in full swing and threats of worsening weather systems rolling in with La Nina, SDOT’s Urban Forestry staff and the Washington State Department of Natural Resources are quick to point out that proper tree care can reduce hazards during storms. Trees that are neglected or improperly pruned can fall or shed limbs during storms, causing power outages, property damage, and injuries or deaths.

 “Tree topping” is a misconception when it comes to storm damage prevention.  In fact, topping, or removing large branches and tops of trees, can actually create future hazards rather than eliminating them. A topped tree is much more likely to break or uproot in a storm than a tree with a normal branch structure.

Proper care of trees includes pruning the dead or weakened limbs and thinning the excess branches from the crown. Trees that are pruned regularly should actually be more resistant to storm damage. To reduce wind resistance, proper pruning includes removal of structurally weak branches and trimming the horizontal or side branches.

After a storm, be watchful for potentially dangerous damage to trees.  Water saturated soils can lead to damage to the tree roots which can weaken trees, or even topple trees.  Storm-damaged trees may have broken limbs that can suddenly fall or come into contact with power lines.

Having trees inspected by a certified arborist can ease fears and eliminate unnecessary damage in storms. To find a local certified arborist, log on to If you’re shopping for a tree service company, be sure to hire a company that is licensed, bonded, insured and employs ISA Certified Arborists. Although Washington requires tree service companies to register with the state, they are not required to adhere to proper pruning standards or even demonstrate pruning knowledge in order to obtain a license. Beware of ‘door-knockers’; their low prices could prove costly. Most reputable companies have business cards, truck signs, and even uniforms that indicate a level of service. Don’t hesitate to ask for references; if the company is legit, they won’t mind providing that information. Take time to select a reputable company and do not hire anyone who is willing top a tree.

For more information, phone numbers and links, please visit our website on “winterizing” trees:

It should be noted that you can prune small trees using guidelines available at:; however, our Urban Forestry staff recommends that you seek a tree service to prune large trees.