Responding to Tree Damage

MORGAN CITY – In the interest of assisting citizens and communities affected by the recent landfall of Hurricane Gustav and its subsequent path through Louisiana, the Louisiana Urban Forestry Council (LUFC) reminds homeowners with downed trees or tree damage of the following:

Safety first. When around a downed tree, broken limbs or branches, be alert for power lines that may be near or inside the tree or other hazards that may injure or even kill. Also, do not allow anyone or pets to be in the area of the root-plate of an uprooted tree (the area where the roots and base of the tree were “pulled” out of the ground when the tree fell over). The tree could rapidly right itself and crush anything that is in the root-plate, such as a child or a family pet.

Assess the situation of your tree. Is the entire tree down? Did large limbs fall? Was it just branches? Can you save the tree and not have to remove it? Remember, removing a healthy tree that poses no hazard may cause future negative ramifications such as higher utility bills (due to a lack of shade), no wind buffer from future storms, and an increase in stormwater runoff. Sometimes a simple, but effective, pruning will suffice and allow a tree to remain.

Decide if you can do the work or need to hire someone. If you can do the work, again, the LUFC recommends that you take precautions and be safe. Using a chainsaw requires skill and special pruning techniques; however, if you hire someone to work on your trees, the State of Louisiana requires that work be performed by a licensed arborist only. Access the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry’s website for a listing (www.ldaf.state.la.us) and “click” on “Find a Licensed Horticultural Professional.” Hiring someone not licensed in Louisiana can have negative, economic ramifications on a homeowner in case someone is injured or if property is damaged.

Consult local laws and officials for proper procedures and specific rules for disposing tree material and green waste.

Begin planning future tree plantings to replace any tree removed. The LUFC recommends consulting with a professional, such as an arborist, urban forester or landscape architect to recommend hurricane-resistant trees and an effective site planting plan. Consider using different species of trees, too.

Once you have a planting plan, then plant new trees during the proper tree-planting season in Louisiana (which is November through March). Planting the right tree in the right place will maximize the environmental benefits trees provide to a community. Never plant a tree under or near power lines. Visualize the mature size of the tree and plant an appropriate distance away from the power line and away from your home.

As is the case in a number of post-storm events, be aware of people or companies that take advantage of storm victims. The LUFC emphasizes the need to make sure that any contractor you hire has insurance and be licensed to do work in Louisiana. Ask to see their documentation and make the effort to verify insurance coverage. Ask for an estimate in writing. If the company is legitimate, this will not be an issue. Do not hire anyone without a written contract that spells out the work plan, the clean-up plan and a final price. Do not give a deposit before the work begins.

Be cautious of “post-storm” panic or “chainsaw-backlash,” whereby homeowners remove all surviving trees near their home. While this is an understandable response to a storm, the surviving trees may be the very trees that help to buffer your home from the damaging winds of future storms. Trees that have been uprooted, trees that have broken trunks, or trees that have lost major branches are the first concern and should be addressed and probably removed.

Also, in the spirit of cooperation and in providing as much information as possible to the general public, the Louisiana Urban Forestry Council recommends people to visit the LSU AgCenter’s website (www.lsuagcenter.com) and the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry’s website (www.ldaf.state.la.us) for more information on post-storm recommendations for your trees and recovery.

As always, if the Louisiana Urban Forestry Council can be of any assistance, please send an email to info@louisianaurbanforestry.org or call the LUFC at 985-686-9391.

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