Look­ing back at the Oc­to­ber 1987 snow­storm

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - LIFE - Bob Bey­fuss Gar­den Tips

Tips for the week be­gin­ning Oc­to­ber 7th, 2016 by Bob Bey­fuss Look­ing back I vividly recall Oct. 4, 1987, when a freak snow­storm dumped be­tween 12 and 24 inches of heavy, wet, snow on our re­gion. I was liv­ing in Purl­ing, Greene County, at that time and the sound of tree limbs break­ing un­der the weight of the heavy snow is a sound I will never for­get. It sounded like thun­der. Many of us were pet­ri­fied that that nice shade tree out­side our win­dow was go­ing to drop its branches on our roof. The fall fo­liage had not even peaked when the snow turned the fo­liage from red to white to gone.

In some ways, it was a per­fect storm in the worst case. The wet snow stuck to the leaves, but if it were just a few degrees colder, it would have been shed. As it turned out, the snow weight broke any weak branches, which then fell onto power lines. The ma­jor is­sue was power out­ages, which lasted for only a few days in Purl­ing, but al­most two weeks in parts of Free­hold. The tree dam­age was very con­spic­u­ous for al­most 5 years af­ter­wards.

It was a great learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for ar­borists as well as a great work op­por­tu­nity for any­one who had a chain­saw! I think I learned more about tree struc­ture and de­fects, as well as po­ten­tial hazard trees in the af­ter­math of that storm, than from any for­mal train­ing I have ever taken.

If you have trees around your house that are po­ten­tially haz­ardous, you can con­tact an ar­borist for an eval­u­a­tion. I would sug­gest that you use an ISAcer­ti­fied ar­borist and not just some­one who does tree work. There is a New York state ar­borist as­so­ci­a­tion and it has a web­page you can Google for a list of cer­ti­fied ar­borists. My name will show up on that list, but I no longer do tree eval­u­a­tions,

so please don’t call me! There are sev­eral trained, lo­cal peo­ple who can do this.

The fol­low­ing “red flags” are things you can look at your­self be­fore you call a pro­fes­sional.

The first red flag are what is known as “nar­row crotches.” This is why trees some­times split in half. If your tree forks nar­rowly, each of the forks may be push­ing on the other one as they ex­pand in di­am­e­ter. This forces it to split even­tu­ally and this could be a prob­lem down the line.

If there is any veg­e­ta­tion grow­ing out of the crotch, this in­di­cates in­ter­nal de­cay and is also a red flag. If the tree has fungi or mush­rooms grow­ing out of the trunk or at the base of the tree, this is also a red flag. Any “bulging” of the trunk also in­di­cates in­ter­nal de­cay. Dead branches in the crown will even­tu­ally drop and they should be re­moved, if there is a chance of them fall­ing on your house or any­where else where they may harm peo­ple or prop­erty.

If your tree seems to be lean­ing in one di­rec­tion or another, that in it­self is not a hazard, but if it the ground is lifted up on the side away from the lean, that in­di­cates the root sys­tem may be rot­ted and the tree may fall down. This is called a “par­tial” throw, another red flag.

All species of trees have av­er­age life spans and some species are far more struc­turally sound than others. Sugar and Nor­way Maples and all species of oaks are usu­ally long-lived, tough trees, whereas sil­ver maple, any aspen or poplar and all wil­lows are weak wooded. Ash trees are all at risk these days due to Emer­ald Ash Borer. More than 30 per­cent dead wood in the crown of any tree is also a red flag.

Next week, I will dis­cuss some ways to nur­ture old trees that are de­clin­ing.

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