The International Society of Arboriculture offers the following guidance for handling tree care and cleanup following a storm:

Assess tree damage

  • Evaluate trees carefully and safely by looking up, down and all around.
  • Be sure to stay clear of downed utility lines and any hanging branches that look like they are ready to fall.
  • Other than the storm damage, check to see if trees are basically healthy and vigorous and whether any major limbs or leaders remain on the tree.
  • Examine the tree’s crown to determine if at least half the branches and leaves are intact and whether any remaining branches can form new ones.
  • Trees after a storm may look unbalanced with branches missing, but if they pass this initial inspection, there is a good chance for complete recovery.

Tree debris removal

  • Only after appropriate assessment, begin by clearing away broken branches or stubs still attached to the tree.
  • Remove the jagged remains of smaller-sized broken limbs to minimize the risk of decay. Smaller branches should be pruned at the point where they join larger ones on the tree.
  • For larger branches that are broken — cut them back to the trunk or a main limb.

Do not over-prune or top trees

  • Resist the urge to cut back all of the branches because it will not prevent breakage in future storms.
  • Topping, which is the practice of cutting off main branches back to stubs, is extremely harmful and unhealthy for trees. Stubs will often grow back, but will produce weaker branches that are more likely to break during a storm.
  • Topping will also reduce the amount of tree foliage and they depend on that for food and nourishment needed for regrowth.
  • A topped tree that has already sustained major storm damage is more likely to die than repair itself.