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Ice Storm Tree Damage

Ice storm damage, close up of heavy ice on tree branches

With wild winter weather, you may worry if your trees will bear the brunt of ice storm tree damage. How likely is it that your trees may become damaged in a winter storm? If your tree has already been damaged, what do you do now?

If you’re looking for advice on ice storm tree removal in Toronto or tree damage after a winter wind, snow or ice storm, read on.

Ice Damage to Trees

Can snow and ice really damage tree limbs? Trees are made to stand up to nature, right? And usually, they do, but even in the wild, snow and ice can cause damage to trees. Urban trees are often starting out weaker due to lack of space, light, or soil nutrients. This can make them more vulnerable to winter storm damage.

Exceptional weather like heavy ice or snow and sudden temperature shifts from rain to freezing temperatures lead to extra stress on trees. Ice may build up quickly in some conditions. Winter storms are frequently accompanied by high winds, which can also cause limb breakage. Freeze-thaw cycles can also cause damage to tree bark.

How Much Ice Damages a Tree Limb?

Thick ice on tree branches during snowfall at night with a streetlight in the backgroun

So is there a specific amount of ice you should worry about? Unfortunately, we can’t tell you that if the forecast says 10 mm of precipitation your trees will be fine and you should start to worry at 25 mm. Generally, bigger storms cause more damage. If ice or snow on a branch is heavier, particularly thick ice and heavy wet snow, it’s more likely to damage a branch.

Trees that are already weaker are the most vulnerable. Newly planted young trees can be especially vulnerable in their first years, as can mature trees that are already suffering from damage or breakage. Trees of any age that have recently gone through a pest or fungal infestation are vulnerable as well.

However, the vast majority of trees come out of winter storms unscathed. It’s much more common for trees to lose a couple of small branches and twigs in high winds or ice storms. If this is the case, you can safely collect these branches from the ground yourself, as long as there are no larger broken or dangling limbs or falling ice.

Ice Storm Tree Removal

Some trees will meet their match in a winter storm. Winds, ice, and snow can cause large limbs and branches to break and fall, or trees to partially or fully fall down. If it’s already too late for your tree, call an arborist!

Not all arborists work year round, but many do, including Vista Tree! Arborists are available for all your winter emergency work. In some cases, they’ll be able to send a crew right away to deal with a problem like a tree fell on your house.

Tree and branch removals can be done year-round. If a storm is particularly bad or lengthy, we may need to wait for the weather to improve before we can safely do winter storm cleanup and removals. This can vary depending on the urgency of the problem and the weather.

How to Protect Trees from Ice Storms

Of course, the best way to avoid ice storm damage to trees is to prevent it from happening in the first place. None of us can predict or stop Mother Nature, but we can give our trees the best chance against it!

Keeping your trees strong and healthy means regular maintenance like annual pruning. This will remove and reduce weak or broken branches. Having an arborist prune your tree also lets them catch other undetected issues that could be treated. That can include weak limbs or early or hard to spot infestations. Fertilizing your trees in fall, spring, or both helps restore nutrients and strengthens tree growth over the next growing season. 

For young trees and thin-barked trees, tree wrapping can help protect tree bark in the winter. This minimizes the chance of bark damage down the road.

If you’re looking to protect from wind damage and ice damage to trees for next winter, it’s not too early to book in winter pruning or spring fertilizer and plant treatment services. If you have urgent emergency winter storm tree work, check out our contact information page today to fill out a request or for our emergency line.

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