Spring in Nebraska typically brings thunderstorms and many communities in the eastern part of the state have been hit hard in recent weeks with very strong winds and hail. We’ve heard of significant damage in the Seward and York areas as well as in Omaha and Brownville. We were hit hard in Waverly twice in the last two weeks with winds estimated over 80 mph both times. Such storms always expose weak trees and poor branch structure but I was still surprised at how many trees were completely uprooted or blown over.. A few comments about trees and wind damage:
- The type of tree matters! As usual the worst culprits for damage were those species notorious for being weak wooded or that have poor branch attachments including silver maple, Siberian elm, green ash and ornamental pear. In Waverly, many lindens were also hit hard. Conversely, strong-branched trees, especially oaks, showed very little damage. Starting with strong species helps reduce future problems!
- Structure and tree care matters. These storms always expose weak branch unions. Giving trees good care and helping them achieve good structure as they grow can greatly reduce problems down the road. This is especially important for our workhorse trees like hackberry, elm, honeylocust, ash and silver maple.
- The root system matters! Many trees blown over in Waverly showed compromised root systems related to things like overwatering, construction impacts, past pruning/care, and other human activity. And yet some trees with healthy roots still toppled over.
- Removing large trees nearby can have a big impact! Trees that grow up together protected by each other or from other trees are more prone to wind damage if large trees around them are suddenly removed. This was very evident in Waverly where some large pines were recently removed on school property, changing the wind load on those nearby trees that were allowed to remain and causing several to be damaged or even broken over.
- Sometimes there’s nothing that can be done as strong trees with good branch structure can still be damaged or blown over. When winds exceed 80mph, all bets are off. Big healthy trees act as a big sail in such storms. Just imagine the amount of force our trees are subjected to in such storms.
- Despite the tree loss and damage, I’m always impressed by how many trees survive these storms relatively unscathed. Over 90% of Waverly’s trees are just fine. Amazing. Thank goodness so many of our trees can resist the worst of our weather.
Although much of the state has gotten much needed rain in recent weeks and days, some areas are still gripped by drought. In fact most of the state is in at least moderate drought, and the southwest corner including McCook is in an extreme drought. I’m hoping the more I bring this up, the more rain it will bring.