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Make right moves after storms strike

Tuesday night’s storm brought down tree limbs, which in turn brought down power lines throughout Red Wing including at Seventh and Jefferson streets. The Jefferson School neighborhood was without power for 24 hours. (photo by Anne Jacobson)

In the aftermath of severe weather, downed branches and damaged trees can create havoc for homeowners; just ask Sue Milbright of Wacouta Township. Tuesday evening, a tree branch, 6 inches in diameter, came through the ceiling in her guest bedroom.

“It just came plunging through,” she said. “If a person had been sleeping in that bed, they would be dead.”

Like Milbright, many people throughout the region experienced damage to trees and homes during Tuesday’s thunderstorms. Knowing which trees to save and which to remove can impact the safety and survival of remaining trees, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Jennifer Teegarden, DNR forestry outreach specialist, offers the following do and don’t tips.

Do

•Approach damaged trees with caution. Stay clear of downed wires and call 911.

•Carefully inspect standing trees for damage and deal with hazardous trees first. If possible, ask a forester or arborist for advice.

•Trees should be removed if more than 50 percent of the trunk or live branches in the crown are damaged, and if the tree is unnaturally leaning or roots are damaged.

•Watch for detached branches, loosely hanging branches and split or cracked trunks that can cause injury or further damage.

•Use proper pruning techniques to remove broken limbs by cutting just outside the branch collar, but limit pruning to making the tree safe. Too much pruning can weaken an already stressed tree.

•Water stressed and damaged trees weekly to help them repair and rebuild. Be careful not to overwater, especially in heavy clay soils.

•Monitor damaged trees in upcoming years to make sure they don’t become a hazard.

Don’t

•Be rushed by promises of bargains from inexperienced or unqualified tree service providers. Improper pruning or unneeded removal can result in unnecessary costs or loss of healthy trees. Ask for references and proof of insurance.

•Repair a broken branch or fork of a tree with tape, wire, bolts or other wraps. It will not heal, and the split will invite decay and further weaken the tree. Cabling or bracing should only be performed by a certified arborist and inspected annually.

•Remove the tops of trees. This makes the tree more susceptible to insects and disease, and results in new branches that are weakly attached.

•Apply paint or dressing to wounds as these materials interfere with the natural wound sealing process.

•Remove small, leaning trees. Trees less than 15 feet tall may survive if they are gently pulled back into place. Press out air spaces in the loosened soil. The tree can then be staked for up to a year.

•Fertilize stressed or damaged trees.

•Taking the right steps to correct damaged trees is crucial to allow the trees to continue to provide shade, clean air, beauty and increased property value for years to come, Teegarden said.

Dealing with home damage

If severe weather causes damage to your home, Andrew Mikkelson of Homestead Remodeling, recommends seeking a professional assessment as the first course of action.

“If your home has sustained damage, find a reliable and seasoned restoration contractor to assess the damage,” Mikkelson said. “They will be able to determine if the damage is sufficient enough to file a claim with your insurance company or if it is something minor the homeowner can fix themselves.”

Homestead Remodeling services the greater metro and southeastern areas of Minnesota. The company specializes in insurance restoration to help homeowners through the stress of storm damage. “We work with your insurance company to ensure you are getting the best materials and highest quality of installations and repairs,” Mikkelson said.

When a tree hits a home, a large amount of weight is transferred to the home, usually at a non-direct angle, he said.

To ensure that the home has not suffered structural damage, Mikkelson recommends an assessment from a structural engineer.

“If a tree strikes a deck and breaks a railing, you might not see that the weight of tree hitting could transfer down into the footing in the ground and crack the foundation. Maybe a year or two later, the deck will start leaning and separate from the house,” Mikkelson said. “Doing your research and working with the right specialists in situations like this will prevent a headache down the road. It takes patience to get things done right.”

The high volume of work that rises after a storm does correlate to a higher number of insurance fraud cases, Mikkelson said.

“If any contractor is saying they will do the work without you paying your deductible, that is a huge red flag,” he said. Working with a licensed contractor that is fully insured is also important, Mikkelson added. “Going with a ‘one-stop shop’ type contractor or handyman that may not be licensed could leave the homeowner missing line items in their policy. We use the same estimation software as insurance companies when submitting claims, so homeowners get the service they are entitled to through their policies.”

Severe weather has reminded us, again, how ubiquitous its presence is to the Midwest as the cleanup continues in Red Wing and surrounding communities. As Milbright moves forward and recovers at her home, she said her son, who usually stays in the room where the branch came through, may need more time.

“He told me would be staying in another room the next time he comes to visit.”

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