The severe thunderstorms and high winds that swept through Maryland Friday downed trees and power lines across the state, and people are now tasked with the cleanup.
Both are state certified arborists, and they offered this advice on when to call in the professionals and how to pick the right tree company.
When not to DIY
Preslipsky and Balderson both agreed that any limbs left hanging in the trees should always be left to a professional.
"We really highly recommend that if you’re going to get off the ground you call in somebody that is an arborist or a professional tree climber," Balderson said. "We use ropes and saddles; we never use ladders because they are very unpredictable."
Both men have heard many a story of homeowners sent to the hospital because they fell off a ladder or were cut—sometimes severely—by a chainsaw while trying to balance in a tree.
If the storm split a tree either partially or completely, it may be time to call in the experts.
Preslipsky said this is especially true for co-dominant stem trees, which is one tree that appears to have more than one trunk. These types of trees are more likely to fail in a storm.
"You can set support systems through cabling the trees," Preslipsky said. "That happens up in the top portions of the canopy and allows all the main stems to work in unison together."
If one part of these kinds of trees break off, the whole tree will likely die from shock. Preslipsky said in this situation he recommends taking the whole tree down, or else a homeowner could see the remaining stem fail in the next storm.
Signs your tree is in trouble
Balderson said there are several signs you may have a tree in trouble.
"Cracks in the ground tell you that that tree has moved or shifted. Bark missing can be a sign of lightning as well as cracks running down the tree," Balderson said. "Any major limb failure, any change in the leaf color or dropping of the leaves right now."
Balderson said homeowners can actually install lightning rods in large trees to help prevent future storm damage.
Both men said they saw a lot of trees fail near patios, home additions and around driveways because their root systems were compromised.
Trees have two types of roots: Support roots hold it in the ground and fine roots that supply the tree with water.
Balderson said, "If the support roots are compromised, then you get a healthy looking tree that falls over."
Preslipsky said he advises homeowners that a tree's root system extends two to three times the size of it's canopy.
Are you licensed by the state?
Before a homeowner permits someone to work on their property, both men highly recommend verifying that the person is licensed by the state of Maryland.
This can be done online at Maryland's Department of Natural Resources.
Preslipsky also said, "People who are located in the 100 foot buffer on the waterfront do not need a permit in order to have a job completed. But if it's pruning or removal of a live, healthy tree that is not related to storm damage, they need to file a permit with Anne Arundel County."
Preslipsky said the permit is free and easy to obtain, but the fine for failure is $1,000 per home occupant and $1,000 for any company operating without one.
Maintaining healthy trees
Preslipsky said, "The biggest thing that can be done is core trimming. The the theory is that when you are standing underneath the tree, you should be able to spot the sun."
Canopy thinning allows high winds to pass through the tree rather than building up pressure that can result in lifting or toppling.
He and Balderson agreed that trimming trees can significantly reduce the chances for failure.
Preslipsky said, "No more than 25 percent of a tree's canopy should be trimmed back in one growing season."
He advises homeowners to go easy on the shears or call in a professional. He said having an arborist come out once every three years to look at your trees is a good idea.
Finally, both men said their companies offer free estimates for anyone needing storm assistance or preventitive maintenance.
Preslipsky said, "If there's something that they are thinking about doing, but are unsure about it. They should probably call somebody."