Do you treasure big trees? Their sublime fall colors tell us another summer is gone and winter is coming. And they have such a nostalgic draw when looking at houses or driving down a tree-lined street. Trees give us beauty, shade and wildlife. Just a look at this stunning view from Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park.
But they can also be dangerous and destructive when severe weather threatens. A mature oak tree in Virginia can top out at more than 80 feet and weigh in at 20,000 pounds or more and become a massive threat to our homes. This is NOT something you want dropping in on you during a storm! Even a CAT 1 hurricane can produce winds that cause large branches of trees to snap and shallowly rooted trees to topple.
In April 2018, this large tree branch came down in Irvington, VA from an EF1 tornado.
The Duvall's story really says it all. Kate was preparing her nest in anticipation of the couple’s first child when a large tree brought catastrophic damage to their “forever home”. You’ve got to watch to find out how it ends! (Yes, it's happy.)
We know from these types of member experiences that your home needs to be protected. While most homeowners insurance policies cover tree related damage, you know the old adage about an ounce of prevention. Many downed tree incidents and claims can be prevented with proper placement and two simple practices:
1. Trim that tree
Twice a year, early spring and fall. You’re looking for dead, damaged branches. And maintain a minimum of 10-15 feet between healthy branches and your home and other property. Fall wildfire season in Virginia runs from Oct. 15 through Nov. 30 each year. Having a defensible space around your home can prevent wildfires from quickly reaching your home. And Virginia ice storms can add excessive weight to tree branches, causing them to break off when they wouldn’t otherwise.
2. Check your trees' health
Is the foliage full and healthy looking? Root problems are often reflected in what’s above the ground. Check a few more things:
- Mushrooms growing around roots
- Rainwater pooling around tree base
- Leaning with cracked or buckling soil or exposed roots on the opposite side
- Multiple V-shaped trunks vs. U-shaped. V-shaped are prone to splitting
- Signs of illness: lack of foliage, fungus and/or carpenter ants at the base of the tree, hollow pockets, cavities or decay
- Signs of damage: exposed roots, peeling bark, deep cracks, partially detached or suspended limbs or stem tops
If you’re not sure, it's best to consult a certified arborist in Virginia. These specialists are skilled tree care professionals. We recommend avoiding drive-by solicitations that may not have proper training. If a tree's beyond help or dead, it needs to be removed asap and that is usually better left to the pros as well.
That's it! Regular maintenance is the best way to protect your home and property from peak hurricane season and winter in Virginia. Take the worry out by making those trees less of a threat. If one does happen to fall or cause damage to property from severe weather, not to worry. Your home policy covers a well-maintained tree. Call your independent agent or give us a call to file a claim. We'll help get things back to normal.