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PHOTO BY EMELIE SWACKHAMER Superstorm Sandy toppled many trees in the Lehigh Valley, including this evergreen, in late October 2012. PHOTO BY EMELIE SWACKHAMER Superstorm Sandy toppled many trees in the Lehigh Valley, including this evergreen, in late October 2012.

Make your trees storm-proof

Wednesday, October 2, 2013 by The Press in Focus

Let's hope this October there are no storms that cause power outages in the Lehigh Valley because of falling or uprooted trees.

We wouldn't want three times to be the charm.

In 2011, it was the Halloween nor'easter, which broke records for snowfall in 20 cities along the East Coast, Oct. 28 - Oct. 30. Up to 16 inches of snow fell in Pennsylvania.

Last year, it was Superstorm Sandy, which hit coastal regions Oct. 29, with more than 100 deaths and homes and property destroyed.

Will three times be the charm or the alarm?

When it comes to trees, it's best to plan ahead and be prepared.

One of the great plagues of landscape trees is storm or mechanical damage. This is inflicted by wind and-or the massive weights of ice and snow. Minor breakage can occur in small crown branches, but large limbs can also break off.

The worst scenario occurs when major branches break or split into the trunk itself. Entire trunks may split when major "twin leaders" are forced apart. The latter situation often requires the entire tree removal.

One should prune trees and shrubs of dead or broken branches. Removal of dead wood helps stop the invasion of insects and pathogens. To prevent further damage, the tree's crown should be thinned to allow wind to blow through and to leave fewer branches for accumulation of snow and ice.

Ideally, trees should not be pruned in the spring. Spring pruning often results in sap flow, which attracts insects. However, pruning of dead branches or removal of rotting trees should never be postponed, since such trees will be hazardous in storms

Good nutrition stimulates cambial activity and, therefore, faster healing. Dormant season fertilization is often the better route to follow. Trees should be watered with soaker hoses weekly, even in fall, especially during droughty conditions.

When trees are replaced, you should select storm damage resistant species, such as oaks, gingko, apple, spruce and fir.

Avoid storm-susceptible species such as Bradford pear, willows, white birch and silver maple. V-crotched trees are generally more susceptible to storm damage than U-crotched trees, such as gingko.

Even when we do all of the right things, we can still incur losses. Prevention, however, really pays off.

"Growing Green" is contributed by Lehigh County Extension Office Staff and Master Gardeners. Lehigh County Extension Office, 610-391-9840; Northampton County Extension Office, 610-746-1970.