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Why do trees seem to fall so easily during storms?

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Posted at 12:38 PM, Feb 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-16 18:17:13-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — It’s not uncommon in Southern Nevada for large trees to fall down or for limbs to break during a storm involving wind and rain.

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According to the experts, the most common reasons are soggy soil and a compromised or shallow root system.

Proper drainage and a large and healthy root system are crucial for a tree to remain standing.

First of all, trees need to be planted at the proper depth in an open area with proper spacing and in well-drained soil.

When trees are planted in hard or compacted soils, the roots may not be able to penetrate the ground to the depth needed to maintain stability. And if they are planted too close together, their roots will be competing for the same space and water/nutrients.

PREVIOUS STORY: How to prevent trees from falling during monsoon storms

If trees are not rooted properly or maintained, they become susceptible to “wind throw” during a storm.

During a high wind event, the trunk of a tree acts as a lever and so the force applied to the roots and trunk increases with height. The bigger and taller the tree, the more likely it is to go down.

Additionally, trees that are not taken care of are more likely to suffer damage during a storm.

Trees must be trimmed properly on a regular basis. It is essential to keep the canopy balanced with strong and healthy branches.

SIGNS THAT A TREE COULD FALL OR BREAK

Leans to one side
Cracks in the trunk
Decayed wood (hollow holes, rotten wood, bulges)
Unhealthy crown or canopy
Single trunk tree (trees with multiple trunks less likely to fall)
Weak branch union
Naturally shallow root system (willows, poplars, white pine, cottonwood, Norway maple)
Shallow root systems because of soil quality (either hard and rocky in the desert or too sandy)
New trees (it can take several years to establish a stable root system)

HOW TO PREVENT TREES FROM FALLING

Water slowly over long periods of time. If you water frequently for a short amount of time, the roots will grow near the surface.
Don’t overwater, which can cause root rot and make the tree weak.
Don’t overmuch, which can encourage roots to grow shallow and may even suffocate the roots.
Don't overplant. Make sure you give each tree the room it needs to establish a good root system.
Prune for structure. Pruning your trees before they are fully mature is very important.
Remove dead/weak limbs.

SOURCES
Why trees topple and what you can do to reduce the risk
Why do trees fall down
Why do trees topple in a storm