Dead branches and limbs more likely to fall, be a danger than trees in windstorms

SEATTLE  — It’s the symbol of the Evergreen State and one reason many choose to call the Pacific Northwest home.

But in the state known for its trees, rain is just as much a reality.

“Saturated ground causes the roots to loose their grips on the soil,” said certified arborist and self-proclaimed “tree surgeon” Michael Oxman. “Weather takes out trees that have been neglected, primarily. Usually it’s after it’s been raining for quite a long time.”

In this case – it’s just the start of the rainy season.

"We generally see a little more damage first storm of the year--especially if the leaves are still on," said board certified Master Arborist Scott Baker, a registered consulting arborist for Tree Solutions Inc. in Seattle.

Arborists say leaves are actually a good indicator of tree health.

"If the top of the tree is dead and there is no leaves on the very top, that means that this year's growth ceased and that is not a good sign for the metabolism of the tree," said Oxman.

Other things arborists say to watch for are missing bark, tree cavities and rotting trunks  that can make the tree more unstable when the winds start blowing.

The bugs have just munched away on this and turned it into shredded wheat

"Steady winds don’t knock trees over, it's gusting winds that knock trees over," said Oxman.

Dead branches or falling limbs is something Baker says is more likely to be dangerous than the tree itself, once the wind blows. Especially on the road.

"A real common place would be in a vehicle--because people get in their cars on any day and they just go about their business," said Baker. "They don’t really even think 'Oh my gosh it's blowing 25 or 35 out and branches might be flying through the air."

Baker says it’s rare to get killed by a falling tree-- especially for those inside a home during a windstorm.

"More commonly inconvenienced. A hole in your roof on a rainy night can be a real bummer," Baker joked.

Baker recommends a degree of proper trimming, but says excessive pruning of branches -- to “thin” or “wind sail” a tree can actually make a tree more dangerous when gusty winds increase.