Weeks of heavy rain make trees more likely to topple

By: Brian Monahan

Updated:

ATLANTA - At the start of the year, nearly 50 percent of Georgia was in extreme drought. Today, none of the state is.

Arborist Christy Bryant, of Gunnison Tree Service, said any drought-related impacts from last year's drought are still at least a couple of years away.

"We didn't see trees come down until 2010 and 2011 after the historic drought of 2007. This is way too soon for these trees to be affected by the drought," Bryant said.

Trees have been toppling across metro Atlanta over the last few weeks and it's actually been because of too much rain, Bryant said.

Severe Weather Team 2 meteorologist Brian Monahan met with Bryant in a neighborhood under the dense tree canopy of southeast Atlanta. Bryant pointed to a tree covered in ivy.

"This tree is just immensely covered in ivy, to the point that it's hanging down and hitting people's windshields as they drive by," she said.

Bryant said in addition to the water the branches and leaves of the tree are holding after heavy rain, there's the additional weight of what the ivy holds. It's this additional weight that makes ivy-covered trees a threat to both people and property.

"If you add all the water in the ground that the ivy is sucking up, into the water that's being held in the leaves of the ivy, then it doesn't take more than a 5 mph wind to knock a tree over," Bryant said.

The shallow root systems of north Georgia's trees makes it even easier for trees to fall. Bryant compared some of the oldest trees to a lollipop -- top heavy, with not much holding them in the ground. Add the additional water weight held in the ivy draping many trees, and it's a recipe for trees to fall.

Kill the ivy, remove the vines and then you have a chance to save the tree.

"If you just come down to ground level and cut the root, everything above dies," Bryant said.

Bryant said the best way to spot unhealthy trees on your property is to just look around. Know your trees. She also said you should start pruning trees when they're young, so they grow properly.

You should also look out for any obvious signs of decay.

"If you see mushrooms, any kind of thing that looks weird. Mushrooms are decayers of the earth, not something you want next to your 50-inch red oak," Bryant said.

If you have old trees near your home, Bryant said you should regularly consult with an arborist to make sure those trees are healthy and to protect your property.

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