Being a tree care professional can mean climbing tall trees or being in aerial lifts. Is there ever a time where you cancel a job or end a day early due to high winds? These arborists discuss what their limit is for wind speeds and tree work.
Jshaw, Minnesota: “Climbed and took down a 40-foot blue spruce the other day in a 25 mph wind with 35 mph gusts (according to the weather report). I was pretty freaked, but got through it. So, my question is: how much wind is too much wind?”
Tdunk, Pennsylvania: “Around here, and for my personal taste, it wouldn’t bother me to take down a 40-foot spruce tree on a windy day. Now, if it was a 110-foot spruce leaning over a house, I’d probably jump to another job until the wind dies down. A couple weeks ago I took down some big, dead hemlock tree. I had my notch cut, wedges in, just about ready to let it go and the wind gusted, snapped the hinge and almost took out six oil storage tanks. You can look at it two ways, if the tree was alive, maybe the hinge wouldn’t have snapped, or the wind was strong enough to snap it off anyway.”
NightOwle, Massachusetts: “I’m not sure you can throw up a mph number. For me, it’s how much is this wind keeping me from paying attention to what I’m doing. I’ll admit I’ve hurried the job along and taken shortcuts. You know cutting larger pieces, not rigging down and such. If the wind is so much that it cuts into my safety margin, I’ll come back another day. This work is tough enough without the high wind days.”
JohnPaulSanbourn, Wisconsin: “I would say 35 to 40 mph for me, but I do not like it. Some qualifiers are how it is gusting, direction, precipitation, temp—overcast, 25 mph at 25 degrees blowing up your pant leg puts a damper on motivation.”
Stihlboy088, Wisconsin: “I get skittish when it’s 25 mph when I’m working. For rec climbing, bring it on, I love that feeling.”
Beastmaster, California: “I’ve climbed healthy pines in 50 mph winds and it was fun, but I get real nervous up in eucalyptus trees and palms when the wind is over 25 mph, then there are those scary gusts that sneak up on ya. I think there are many variables—is the tree safe, can you safely do the work? The sail effect of a tree even in a light wind can influence where it, or part of it, will go. Some trees are more prone to snapping in a stiff wind. The good thing is [that] most of the cleanup blows away. If it’s too windy, take the day off. Be safe.”
(WLL), Pennsylvania: “I have heard that trees can begin to fail at 30 mph sustained on our local weather channel. It seems I’m usually doing removals on problem trees, and failure is greatly increased with strong wind. I think there are many variations with the trees (size, type, health, location, season, snow, ice, rain), and all must be factored in. My advice is to be versatile, as there are many things to do in tree management, so if the wind is too much, stay on the ground and outta the woods and do something other than climb.”
Treemd, Oklahoma: “I don’t really have a set wind speed for when I will not do a job, I just go by my own judgment on each individual job. Pine boughs can sail like a hang glider in the wind. I will take them down in moderate winds, but I will lower every branch to keep them from sailing into a house or anything.
“I was dropping the top of a medium-sized pine one time in high winds and the wind tried to blow the top back on me. I had cut my notch and was making my back cut when a big gust of wind blew the top back and pinched my saw. I let go of the saw and pushed with both hands to keep it from coming over on me. As soon as the gust of wind subsided, the top hinged over and dropped perfectly. It was a tense moment to say the least.
“Where I live now it is windy the majority of the time, so I have to work in it. It’s a pain to work in and makes things like limb walking very difficult at times, but I have gotten used to working in moderate winds. I try to work around the shop or run estimates on really windy days.”
SunriseGuy, Texas: “Over 20 mph, constant, and I’ll have to think real hard about the situation at hand.”
Treesquirrel, Georgia: “If [the] wind is working in a direction adverse to my work, then I will wait. Tree canopies are like parachutes and catch a lot of air. I do not play those odds if I have the choice.”
Reachtreeservi, Georgia: “I don’t work in much wind at all. If I look up and see major movement two-thirds up the tree, I call it a day. All my jobs are always right over something or tight up against a house. The risks aren’t worth it to me. I always need to do other things like bid jobs, work on taxes, maintain equipment, go to the saw shop, etc. All that stuff never gets done if the jobs are coming in and the weather’s good. I’d much rather lose a day cutting and take care of other necessities than have to put a claim in on my insurance.”