The trail of damage after last week's major Vermont snow and ice storm truly reveals the power of Mother Nature, and the remains were devastating from Brandon south, especially for trees.
More than 200 line workers, 90 tree-cutters and hundreds of support staff are making steady progress restoring electrical service to the thousands of Vermonters who lost power last Friday. Power had been restored to over 26,500 of the 35,000 who lost service.
Even though major branches may be broken, foliage might be shredded, or the bark may be torn and gouged, trees have an amazing ability to recover from even the most severe injuries. Accumulations of ice can cause tree limbs to split or break in the treetops, and branches of all sizes can come crashing down at any time especially during high winds.
Follow a few simple procedures immediately after a major storm:
1. Take safety precautions. Look up and look down. Be on the alert and stay away from downed utility lines and dangerous hanging branches that look like they are ready to fall
2. Assess the damages. Evaluate your trees carefully by asking the following questions: Other than the storm damage, is the tree basically healthy and vigorous? Are major limbs or the leader (the main upward-trending branch on most trees) branch still remaining? Is at least 50 percent of the tree's crown (branches and leaves) still intact? Are there remaining branches that can form a new branch structure? If you answered "yes" to the majority of these questions, there is a good chance for complete recovery.
3. Do not try to do it all yourself. Leave dangerous work such as overhead pruning or removing trees, especially large ones, to professionals who are trained in the art and science of caring for and maintaining trees. These are tree care professionals who have achieved a level of knowledge and experience and they are equipped to do the job safely.
If you must hire a tree care professional, take the time to be an informed consumer. In a time of disaster, a fast recovery is desirable, but not taking the time to hire a reputable tree service may create greater problems in the future. When searching for a tree care company, there are several things to look for before making a selection. Check for membership in professional organizations such as the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA), or the American Society of Consulting Arborists (ASCA). Such membership demonstrates a willingness on the part of the arborist to stay up to date on the latest techniques and information.
Ask for proof of insurance and then verify coverage with the insurance company. A reputable tree care professional should have insurance to cover personal and property damage as well as worker's compensation. If you hire an uninsured tree expert, you can be held liable for any damages or injuries that occur while they are on the job. If you hire a company that is from another state, verify that his insurance covers him for work done in your state.
Ask for references from past customers and do not hesitate to check them, or to visit the locations where the company or individual has done tree care work. Do not be afraid to ask for an estimate, and it is ok to get more than one estimate. You should not always select the lowest bid. When examining the bids, you should look at all specifications and credentials, and the work to be done to determine which company will provide the best service with the skill and professionalism needed to protect your investment. And most importantly get it in writing. Most reputable professionals will have the customer sign a contract so be sure to review it and do not be afraid to ask questions.
Finding a qualified tree service is important protection for the homeowner. You don't want to become a victim all over again.
Do not worry if the tree's appearance is not perfect. With branches gone, your trees may look unbalanced or naked. You will be surprised at how fast they will heal, grow new foliage, and return to their natural beauty.
For more tips on how to care for trees, from tree care to trees and storms visit the Vermont Urban and Community Forestry Program web site at www.vtcommunityforestry.org.