How to prevent a potential tree collapse before the next big storm?

SUGAR LAND, Texas – As Drew Smith was surveying the damage on his parents’ property caused by a fallen pecan tree that narrowly missed the main structure of their home, he expressed a sentiment that has crossed the minds of many in the aftermath of Beryl:

“Come storm time, you never know when one of those widow-makers is going to come down,” Smith said.

Across the Houston area, there are plenty of so-called “widow-makers” that are now lying on properties and homes.

“This is the most damage since Ike, and I’ve been an arborist for 25 years,” Grant Crowell tells KPRC 2.

However, is there a way to detect a problem before a storm even shows up on a radar? Crowell says there are things to look for to identify a distressed tree that may pose a threat.

“There are things you can see on a tree. If there is a big mushroom growing the base of it, a big dead limb, those are some of the obvious ones,” Crowell said.

What about action steps?

Thomas Brooks, who lives in the tree-filled community of Commonwealth in Sugar Land, admits he took preventative measures last year.

“I had the trees trimmed kind of feathered out, cut some branches, feathered out some of the branches,” Brooks said.

What does “feathered” mean?

“If the tree is very full, then when the wind comes it’s more likely to get blown over,” Brooks added.

So, in essence, he had tree cutters create openings for the wind to blow through them instead of potentially knocking them over.

Meanwhile, about a mile away, Drew Smith expressed concern over a tree not on his parent’s property, but instead right beside it. A leaning pecan tree still standing after a neighboring one impacted his parent’s home during the storm.

“It could go right over the pool and into the kitchen if it were to fall today,” said Smith.

Equally challenging according to Smith is getting someone to understand the problem and addressing it, which he says his parents have attempted to do on multiple occasions.

Crowell’s advice in these kinds of situations is to stay on top of the homeowners’ associations or municipalities responsible for maintaining the green space where trees are located.

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