Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Winter Storm With Spring Impact
by Jeff Gill

Our Christmas week ice storm in Licking County has left piles of fallen branches and not a few toppled trees along streets and even across housetops.
With power restored over most of the area, residents are counting their blessings and starting the task of tidying up woodpiles or replacing gutters and shingles. The affected trees, though, may not be done having an effect on homes and structures.
“Some damage may not be immediately apparent,” said Howard Siegrist, OSU Extension Educator for Licking County. Even some very large branches could be cracked to the point where the added weight of leaves in the spring can bring them down. “Decay, as well as cracks, may lead to structural loss, causing the tree or large branches to become hazardous,” he adds.
While the inches of ice, adding up to several tons of weight, literally killed many trees, bringing them down in whole or in part, most of those damaged can survive: they may just need a little help. But work on damaged trees carefully!
“Homeowners working on their trees need to use extreme caution,” Siegrist urges. OSU Extension recommends not climbing a damaged tree, or touching trees near electrical wires. You should never climb a tree with a chain saw (lift it to yourself with a rope once you’re in place), and always assess your situation carefully with an eye to safety hazards.
“Most tree work needs to be done by professional arborists,” Siegrist notes, “especially when the work requires climbing or the tree is leaning against another tree or structure.”
Much “hidden” damage will be revealed in the spring, when discolored leaves or bare branches show that a limb that looks fine from below is actually broken through above. Breaks in the bark also will attract pests such as borers and bark beetles, so these diseased limbs should be removed to reduce the threat to neighboring healthy trees. If you have specific landscape damage questions, you can call Licking County Extension at 349-6900.
Outside of your own yard or property, a careful eye above will be vitally important for months to come.
“Widowmaker” is the term old woodsfolk use for dead tree limbs that hang high and out of sight, ready to drop without warning on passersby. A hunter climbing into a treestand, birders out to see warblers perching in the early spring, or just a family of hikers could find their day interrupted by a potentially fatal incident.
The existence of the term shows that this is a long-standing and well-known piece of woods lore that is all the more relevant this year. The ice storm that closed 2004 may have a second shot at Licking County long into 2005 if we’re not careful!

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