What to Do After a Flood

Call a professional forester to help with safe, economically sound salvage.

Having a post-flood plan is always important, and especially important if you live in a high-risk area. The steps you take after a flood can help your woods make a faster, more complete recovery.

Your Post-Flood Checklist

  • Stay safe. Report any dangerous conditions immediately, and use protective gear when moving through a flooded or recently flooded area. Make sure your home and drinking water are safe.
  • Get help. Dealing with a flooded forest can mean assessing for multiple kinds of damage, planning for safe tree salvage and removal, and even applying for state or federal assistance. That’s a lot to handle. Ask a professional forester to help you.
  • Survey your woods, carefully. With extreme caution, go out among your trees and take stock of the damage. Note where the damage occurred and its extent. Document the damage with photographs and a map, if possible. 
    Look for:
      1. Exposed roots
      2. Discolored or falling leaves
      3. Abraded or leaning tree trunksCracks in the soil, or mounds of soil at the base of your tree.
  • Salvage promptly. Any damaged trees that won’t recover should be removed soon after floodwaters recede. Your forester can help you plan a safe, economically sound salvage. 

When salvaging:

      1. Wait until the soil is no longer saturated, as rutting and soil compaction can impact future root growth.
      2. Avoid delays or interruptions—insect pests and decay may set in and greatly reduce the timber’s value if you wait too long. Insects tend to be dormant in the winter but become active again in early spring, so susceptible trees should be removed before then.
      3. Be careful not to damage remaining, intact trees during removal.
      4. Don’t forget the debris. Accumulated debris raises your wildfire risk, so debris removal is just as important as salvaging whole trees and branches.
  • Protect the survivors. After a flood, tend to your trees as if they’re newly planted. 

Make sure to:

      1. Remove silt, sand and eroded soils that have been deposited over roots.
      2. Aerate and test remaining soil to make sure the floodwaters haven’t changed its salinity or robbed it of nutrients. Amend the soil or fertilize as needed.
      3. Monitor the moisture level, because trees may actually require additional water following a flood. Irrigate and mulch to prevent roots from drying out.
  • Watch it. Long after floodwaters have receded, continue to regularly inspect your trees for signs of insect infestation, disease or latent damage. Look for discolored leaves, dying limbs or twigs, or trees with pitch tubes on their bark or boring dust around their bases. These could be signs of disease or pest activity.

If your woods were extensively damaged by flooding, there are additional steps you can take to help your forest recover. You can also get more detailed information from the University of Minneapolis Extension: Inspecting and Assessing Flood-Damaged Trees.

Like other natural disasters, floods can’t be prevented. But you can cultivate a more flood-resistant forest with a little planning and preparation.


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