Recent storms have caused major tree damage throughout Indiana. The brown area in the trunk shows th
Recent storms have caused major tree damage throughout Indiana. The brown area in the trunk shows this tree had significant decay, which made it more vulnerable to wind damage. (photo credit: Rosie Lerner)

Residential trees have been taking a beating during the recent outbreak of summer storms across Indiana. Homeowners will need to determine if they can take care of the damage themselves or if they will need the help of a professional tree service, says Purdue Extension's consumer horticulturist.

"There are trees with just small limbs down, but there are a lot of trees that suffered major breakage," said Rosie Lerner. "It can be hard for homeowners to decide whether trees with severe damage should be removed. Homeowners often are reluctant to cut down a tree, either because of sentimental attachment or because the tree provides shade or screening that won't quickly be replaced. It can also be quite expensive to have a large tree removed."

Safety is the top priority when evaluating a damaged tree, Lerner said. Homeowners should first determine if the tree or some of its branches are in danger of falling now or in the near future.

Small, lower branches can be removed with loppers or a pruning saw. Larger limbs, or those too far up to reach, should be left to arborists who have the appropriate tools and equipment to safely bring down large or high limbs.

Purdue Extension's Education Store has publications available for free download to help homeowners assess storm-damaged trees, remove broken branches or find a professional arborist:

* FNR-FAQ-12-W, Trees and Storms
* HO-4-W, Pruning Ornamental Trees and Shrubs
* FNR-FAQ-13-W, Why Hire an Arborist

To download, visit The Education Store website and enter the publication number in the search box.

"Trees that have decay, previous injury, infection with disease or insects, or have poor architecture have a higher likelihood of breaking up in a big storm," Lerner said.

Trees such as ornamental pear, silver maple and river birch frequently have narrow angles between the main trunk and branches and/or soft wood that compromise their structure.

Just because a tree trunk has damage does not necessarily mean the tree will need to be removed right away, Lerner said. Large, split branches or trunks that have not broken off the tree may be braced and possibly saved by an arborist. "Trees can live for quite some time with some massive holes in their trunks," she said. "But the damage makes them more susceptible to disease, rotting, and insects and increases the likelihood they will come down in the next storm. Homeowners must assess the risk damaged trees pose to property, people and pets. It's always best to err on the side of safety."