Storm damage to trees

Gusts of 95 miles per hour ripped through Carson City this past week. Limbs broke off trees. Trees fell over when saturated soils would no longer support them in the face of these gale-force winds. During the last week of December and into early January, creeks had water moving in amounts and at speeds 30 times their norms. In many locations, these raging waters undercut banks, toppling adjacent trees.

How do you deal with storm-damaged trees? Remove broken limbs as soon as possible using standard pruning guidelines. (See illustration.) Wound dressings have been proven ineffective and may even prolong the period of exposure to rot organisms. Once you have removed the damaged branches, check the tree for splitting branch crotches or off balance limbs that might need additional support.

Treat other large wounds, such as large patches of bark torn from the tree, as soon as possible after the damage occurs. Refit and reattach bark that is still moist. I have used old stockings to wrap the area securely and then duct-taped over the stockings. Never duct-tape to the bark. In some cases, small nails can be used as tacks and then covered with burlap to keep the area moist and sheltered from the sun. The "bandage" should stay in place into fall.

Filling tree cavities is done more for aesthetics than structural integrity. Remove decayed wood in the cavity, taking out the soft rotted wood, but leaving the surrounding healthy tissue. Fill the cavity with a substance that will not rub against healthy wood. Concrete is not a good choice. Polyurethane foam designed for tree cavities is acceptable. Pour it into the hole and let it solidify. The tree will then callus around it.

Success of re-standing a downed tree will depend on the size of the tree, the amount of root damage, and when the tree fell. Success will also depend on how you replant it, support it, and continue to maintain it. Very large trees will require large equipment to pull them back up, and root damage can be extensive. The weight of the crown of the tree may make supporting it with guy wires and cables very difficult. Pruning may be needed. A winch might work for smaller trees, and staking may provide adequate support.

If you have a problem tree and need additional information, contact me, 887-2252 or, or your local University of Nevada Cooperative Extension office. Check out many useful horticulture publications at "Ask a Master Gardener" by e-mailing

n JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension Educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.


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