'Tis the season for trees to tumble

The summer months are the peak time for tree damage.


A crew from Gator Tree Services, left to right, Jonathon Kelsoe, Michael Burleigh and Jesse Sanchez, roll a felled pine tree at a home in northwest Gainesville.

Erica Brough/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Saturday, August 1, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, July 31, 2009 at 10:32 p.m.

Trees are a celebrated part of Gainesville's beauty but also can be a hazard if not treated properly.

The peak time for tree damage is the summer months - hurricane season, the rainy season - the busiest time of year for tree services, according to certified arborist and owner of Gator Tree Services Anthony Dobosiewicz.

Rain softens the ground, which in turn causes roots to loosen, Dobosiewicz said.

Add wind or a top-heavy canopy and trees are prone to break or uproot completely.

"The rain is a contributing factor," Dobosiewicz said. "But the wind is what brings them down."

Gainesville has a tree canopy coverage of almost 51 percent, well beyond the 40 percent coverage recommended by the International Society of Arborculture, according to a study done by the University of Florida's School of Forest Resources and Conservation.

Tree canopy coverage was at about 60 percent only 10 years ago, according to the study, which cited Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne, site clearing for development, tree removals and general canopy maintenance as the reasons for the decrease.

The number of uprooted trees this year is at about normal for Gainesville, said Meg Niederhofer, city arborist, with a small surge during the Fourth of July weekend because of the rain.

The city of Gainesville's Urban Forestry Section manages all public trees in town and gets about 100 cases a year of uprooted or broken trees, a No. 1 priority because of safety concerns, Niederhofer said.

"Some subdivisions only have one way in or out, so if (a tree) falls in the middle of the road, we have to take it out," said Niederhofer.

Niederhofer suggested people call 911 if they see a tree on the road.

Older neighborhoods, such as the Duck Pond area, typically have the 40- to 50-year-old trees that are most susceptible to problems, Dobosiewicz said.

Trees that stand alone are also more prone to falling over, because trees are meant to grow in clusters in order to deflect the wind and rain from one another, he said.

"Everyone likes having a nice big tree in their back yard, but it's not natural," Dobosiewicz said.

Homeowners should have their trees checked every 18 months by a certified arborist to avoid the cost of any major maintenance, he said.

"You can't hurricane-proof a tree," Dobosiewicz said. "But there are things you can do to help improve a tree's chances."

For more information on tree maintenance and to look for a certified arborist, visit www.treesaregood.com.

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