How Windstorms Affect Your Forest

Strong Winds can easily snap tree limbs.

As they grow, trees develop a combination of strength and flexibility known as wind firmness. Wind firmness enables them to sway with strong winds without breaking or toppling, and to return to their normal position once a wind gust or storm passes.

Most trees develop enough wind firmness to withstand the typical weather conditions of the area in which they grow. But their wind firmness may not be enough for unusually strong storms or worst-case winds. When a windstorm exceeds your trees’ wind firmness, they can injure the trees in several ways:

  • Breakage. This is the most common injury. Limbs and trunks can break in the wind or when snapping back into place, particularly if they have sustained pest or other damage that has weakened the wood. Breakage leaves trees vulnerable to fungi and other invaders.
  • Blow-over. When the wind’s force is just too strong for a tree, it can push over the whole structure. Poor forest management and pest problems can both increase the likelihood that a tree will topple.
  • Root damage. Roots that are strained, snapped or uprooted by wind become vulnerable to fungi and insects and less effective at conducting water and nutrients, putting the whole tree at risk.
  • Wounds, including debarking. Impacts from falling trees or branches or debarking by the wind can leave trees susceptible to disease or pest insects.
  • Wildfire and disease risk. The piled up, broken trees left behind by windstorms tend to be more vulnerable to both wildfire and pests. Invasive species also like disturbed sites.

Windstorms can impact more than your woods. They can topple power lines, blow over vehicles, and collapse or significantly damage your home or outbuildings—all of which pose a risk to you and any visitors to your property.

But although windstorm damage may sound daunting, it’s important to keep in mind that trees are resilient too. Your woods can recover from even the most powerful windstorms, with a little help from you.

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