Electricity is off... trees are down!

Power outages are often caused by falling trees so plan ahead

Our local area recently experienced hurricane force winds, without the hurricane. Some wind reports topped 90 miles per hour, with most areas in the 50 mph to 80 mph range. 400,000 people were affected by the resulting power outage. Some of the "lucky ones" had their electricity restored 24 hours later, but many electric customers were without power for several days. Seems to be a common theme in recent years; crippling ice, wind and snow storms.
I talked to an electric company lineman a few days ago, after he finished work on a nearby utility pole. He confirmed what I had already suspected, that most outages are caused by trees knocking down power lines, or falling across them and 'shorting' them out.
Utility line clearance work has never been popular. If trees are left in place beneath lines, they are usually topped-off or flat-sided, completely ruining their symmetry. Other line clearance projects have destroyed privacy screens near homes, when rows of trees were completely removed. Long story short, very few people like to have their trees severely trimmed or removed. But it is being done for a good reason.

Image on right:
Here is a power outage waiting to happen...
a weak Lombardy Poplar growing next
to overhead utility lines. 

Lombardy poplar growing up into utility lines

'Topped' trees under utility wires
Topped or Dropped?
These trees were "topped" to keep them out of utility wires. Perhaps the line clearance personnel would remove them instead, then you could plant a hedge or some small growing trees in their place.

People don't like having power interruptions, or being without power for an extended period of time. For some it can create a medical emergency. Especially when their heat is off and the phone is out of order. Refrigerated foods risk spoilage. No email.... gasp!

Storm damaged evergreen tree
Like a sail in the wind
Evergreens often have less roots than most people think. Thinning their branches, to allow wind to pass through, will help them survive wind storms.

I'm old enough to remember when utility companies used to go onto residential property to clear power lines, for free. That practice was eliminated in our area over 20 years ago, probably to save money. That puts the onus on property owners to prevent their own utility line problems.

The weak branches of a Bradford pear tree are easily damaged by wind and ice
All busted-up
This Bradford Pear was damaged by a strong summer storm. Solution: Remove it and plant a better variety of tree.

Everyone has heard the catch phrase, "Plant the right tree in the right place." By doing that, you may save yourself from future power outages. If you do plant under utility lines, be sure to use trees that stay small and don't grow up into wires. Start trimming trees when they are young.


Weak shoots have formed on this 'topped' Maple creating new risk
Super Sprouts
Instead or removing this Silver Maple, the homeowner decided to have it "topped." This tree's structure is permanently ruined, with weak, fast growing sprouts at every "topping" cut. Removal would have been the better option.

The second piece of advice would be to remove "The wrong trees in the wrong place." We've all planted trees that got larger than we thought they would, but the trouble comes when they have the ability to knock down power lines, under the weight of snow or ice. I would suggest "biting the bullet" and removing these trees. Plant something in their place that won't put you in the dark during the next wind or ice storm. You'll be glad you did.

Ice storms are the bane of most trees and shrubs
Not much you can do!
Freezing rain and ice are the bane of trees and shrubs.

Plant the right tree in the right place, and remove the wrong trees in the wrong places before you are forced to do so at a time that will probably be much less convenient.



Check your trees in Spring

I'm all busted up ( are my trees)

Zone 6 winter - You hardy enough?



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