CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The initial buzz of chainsaws has died to a lesser roar, but there is still a lot of tree work to be done in West Virginia after the series of storms that recently passed through the Mountain State.
Bob Hannah, urban forestry coordinator for the state Division of Forestry in Farmington, warns homeowners to do their homework before hiring a tree service.
"The big thing to check on is that they are dealing with a reputable company with insurance. For treatment, they can't use just anybody with a chainsaw topping these trees. That will exacerbate these problems," Hannah said.
"If it is a large oak or maple, it is worth spending a few hundred dollars as opposed to having someone come in and mutilate the tree. Anyone that's really concerned about their trees should get an expert."
The best thing homeowners can do, according to Hannah, is to find a qualified expert who is a certified arborist through the International Society of Arboriculture (which is online at www.isa-arbor.com).
Certified arborists pass a rigorous exam that covers topics as broad-ranging as tree biology, fertilization, electrical safety, cabling and bracing, insects, diseases, tree identification and more. Additionally, continuing education is necessary to continue certification.
"It just shows they are a professional," Hannah said. He added that many large tree care companies have certified arborists on staff. Also, many of the experts listed as "not for hire" on the website will consult with homeowners and suggest other professionals to do the work.
Charleston resident Charles Woody, a certified arborist listed on the International Society of Arboriculture website, is a consulting forester who works in aboriculture as well.
"It's really tricky right now, and I think the number one issue is to evaluate hazardous conditions," Woody said. "The storms ripped out a lot of limbs, and many are just hanging there." Woody agreed with Hannah that tending to the dangerous situations must be top priority.
"If they notice any heaving of the roots, on the uphill side of the lean, that's an obvious sign right there that there will be trouble down the road," Woody said. Some trees will survive, if the roots have not heaved, but the windblown appearance will probably persist for a long time.
Hannah said the problem with conifers is they are typically shallow rooted, so many toppled during the recent storms.
Woody said one important thing to note about how trees act is that they are naturally found in a forest setting.
"It's a community; they're offered more protection from the wind, from storms." Take away that protection and plant a solo tree in the front yard, and it must compensate for not having "neighbors."
"Open grown trees account for that by not growing as tall, and having more taper so their tops aren't as heavy," Woody explained. "If you are going to develop a lot, and have a stand of poplar trees on it, and you select one poplar tree out of the group to save, it's going to be more prone to wind throw without its companions."
Trees with co-dominant trunks (trunks of similar diameter) account for the majority of tree failures in storms. The branch union (crotch) is structurally weak and prone to breakage as the trunks grow.
"Co-dominant trunks have a very weak union, and that increases the potential for failure," Woody said. If one of the trunks has broken during the storm, it is likely that the whole tree will die.