Storms bring threat from trees that make City of Oaks

Posted September 1, 2016

— One of the most beautiful thing about the City of Oaks is the trees. All across Raleigh, the green canopy offers shade and shelter. But when a storm hits, those trees can become dangerous if they're not healthy enough to survive the wind and rain.

Many property owners learned that lesson the hard way during Hurricane Fran in 1996. When the storm turned inland, no one was prepared for the widespread damage caused by downed trees.

Debbie Harmon lost 37 trees on her Harden Road property.

"Some of them came totally up by the root ball, some of them just snapped off," she said.

Hundreds more trees were downed or damaged in her neighborhood near Rex Hospital.

"I started crying because it was just like a war zone. Trees were down everywhere," she said.

It took months to clear all the damage. Elvie Jackson of Jackson's Tree Service said he began getting service calls before the storm had passed. In the weeks that followed, Jackson answered 2,000 customers.

"For us to go to bed at night we had to unplug the phone. It was continuous," he said. "We worked on Fran damage for probably a year."

In the two decades since Fran, homeowners who remember the storm have gotten a lot more proactive about removing unhealthy trees from their properties.

Jackson warns that dead trees can go first when rain softens the ground and winds gust.

"A dead tree (is) one that is classified as over 25 percent decayed," he said. "When you have one of those, it's not a matter of if it's going to fall, it's when."

He suggested that property owners regularly inspect trees to make sure they are healthy and sturdy.

It's unlikely property owners will be able to get threatening trees removed before the rain arrives ahead of Tropical Storm Hermine, but Jackson said major damage is not expected with this storm.

"We're not planning on it. If it comes, we'll be ready," he said.

With three months remaining in hurricane season, though, homeowners can check their property and get any questionable trees removed before the next big one.


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