University of Florida

Lessons Learned

These are some of the lessons we learned from the recent hurricanes that struck the southeastern US.

Root/Soil Issues

  • Trees growing in confined soil spaces are prone to blowing over. More
  • Root defects such as girdling roots cause trees to blow over. More
  • Apparently healthy trees can blow down because supportive roots have decayed or soil becomes soft from saturation. More
  • Large and old trees blow over; recently planted trees blow over; well established young to medium-aged trees are less likely to blow over. More
  • Construction activities within about 20 feet of the trunk of existing trees can cause the tree to blow over more than a decade later. More
  • Trees in shallow soils are more prone to blow over than trees rooted more deeply. More
  • Uprooted trees can break underground utility lines such as water and sewer. More
  • Trees become unstable in soils saturated by lots of rain. More
  • Trees blow down in the prevailing wind direction. More
  • Aerial roots help hold trees up. More
  • Roots do not grow in compacted limestone. More

Cultural Issues

  • Trees that are preventively pruned are less likely to fail than neglected trees. More
  • Trees with one dominant trunk fair better than trees with codominant stems. More
  • Trees with bark inclusions are prone to falling apart. More
  • Large pruning cuts create decay and cracks that can lead to breakage in storms. More
  • Trees in a group blow down less frequently than single trees.
  • Tree trunks can be hollow without openings in the lower trunk; these are prone to failure in storms. More
  • Trees that have failed before are likely to fail again. More
  • Topped trees break. More
  • Over-pruning palms can increase their susceptibility to damage in storms. More
  • Recently cleared lots were very susceptible to tree damage. More

Species Issues

  • Certain species appear more resistant to damage. More
  • Certain species appear more susceptible to damage. More
  • Old laurel and water oaks are prone to failure in hurricanes. More
  • Queen palms are prone to falling over; washington palms break; royal palms loose foliage; cabbage and Phoenix palms are able to stand firm in many hurricanes. More

Return to top