frozen icy trees split and damages in the street after an ice storm in alberta

Ice Storm Damage & Winter Tree Care

Learn more about the impact of ice damage, how to prevent it and how you can help your trees survive another intense Alberta winter!

A winter storm characterized by freezing rain and significant ice glaze can have a detrimental effect on a community and its trees. Indeed, the excessive weight of ice buildup caused by glaze—which is a smooth coating of ice that forms when rain strikes cold surface—can cause tree branches to crack and break.

 

The Impact of Ice Damage

In severe cases, the strain can split trunks and uproots entire trees. What’s more is that concurrent winter conditions can make trees even more susceptible to ice damage. In fact, extreme wind can create internal cracks, and irregular freezing patterns can damage roots and destabilize trees.

Ice damaged trees can also create extremely hazardous conditions for the people and property around them. Broken branches are a safety hazard to homes, cars and pedestrians. Falling trees and limbs can damage power lines and leave entire neighbourhoods in the dark. Plus, downed trees can block roads, impeding emergency vehicles and repair crews. In these instances, your best bet is to get on the phone with an emergency arborist from All Season to come down and assess the damage and determine the best course of action.

Given all this, it’s a good idea to maintain the trees on your property. Here’s how to ensure that you and your trees are prepared for the next ice storm and that you’re ready to deal with the potential aftermath.

 

How to Prepare Trees for an Icy Winter

First, pruning dead, dying or diseased branches helps promote tree health and minimize winter storm damage. Strong branches are less likely to succumb to ice buildup than brittle ones. To maintain the tree’s structural integrity, don’t remove the main leader (the chief part of the trunk that extends into the crown) or more than 25 per cent of the crown.

Pay close attention to the trees most at risk of damage and particularly those that are young and unhealthy. Wrap small trees with burlap or strong cloth to protect them. Additionally, previously damaged trees may require bracing or cabling to provide structural support.

Another thing to consider is that tree limbs overhanging buildings, parking areas or walkways are a security risk during the winter. Ensure they’re in optimal health and not at risk of falling. Clusters of dead branches, foliage dieback and peeling bark could indicate a diseased tree that needs to be removed. Branches near power lines should be dealt with immediately by a professional arborist.

 

Assessing the Damage – After the Storm

Use caution when approaching damaged trees. Split trunks, hanging limbs and broken branches stuck in the canopy can shift and fall unexpectedly. A buildup of ice can also conceal severe breakage and temporarily support detached branches. If a tree or branch has fallen on a power line, keep your distance and contact emergency hydro services immediately.

A tree is considered hazardous if there’s a risk of injury to people and/or damage to property. The severity of the risk depends on the extent of the damage as well as the location, age and health of the tree. There are immediate safety concerns if damaged branches overhang a building, street, fence, driveway or walkway. A split trunk also poses a hazard if it’s in close proximity to any of these areas.

A tree’s likelihood of survival and recovery depends largely on the type and extent of the damage. A fully developed, healthy tree can often survive the loss of up to 75 per cent of its crown and a bend in the trunk of less than 60 degrees. Most trees won’t survive uprooting or a split trunk.

 

How To Care For Damaged Trees

Trees are resilient, so don’t rush to remove a damaged tree unless it poses a safety hazard. All broken branches should be pruned as soon as possible to promote recovery and prevent the onset of disease and infestation. A chisel or sharp knife can be used to remove jagged and loose bark.

When pruning branches, we will cut close to the collar (the raised ring at the base of the branch) but not through it. Proper pruning allows the tree to form a protective callus over the wound. A long stub will delay healing and attract pests. Large branches should be cut using a three-step method that prevents the weight of the limb from tearing the bark below.

Impaired trees will be more vulnerable to winter weather, but it can take months for the extent of the damage to become apparent. Monitor trees during the spring for signs of growth abnormalities, nutrient deficiencies, sunscald and discolouration. Damaged trees may require structural reinforcement such as cabling and bracing during subsequent winters to prevent further deterioration.

 

When To Call A Professional Arborist

If you’re concerned about the health and potential safety risk of any tree on your property, request an assessment from an arborist before winter hits. Preventive measures can be taken to minimize the risk of tree and property damage.

Once a storm has passed, dealing with the aftermath can be stressful, daunting and downright dangerous. Pruning large fallen branches, taking care of split trunks and removing uprooted trees are complex procedures that should be carried out by trained and experienced professionals.

All Season Tree Service offers 24/7 emergency tree services to deal with ice storm damage in the Greater Edmonton and surrounding areas. With more than two decades of experience, our team knows how to deal with brutal Alberta winters. To schedule an assessment or a tree removal after a storm, contact us today.

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