Recent storms are producing a lot of rain, but I am more concerned about what else the storms bring: wind and lightning. Many local trees have been struck or damaged and should be evaluated carefully for soundness after damage occurs.
Lightning strikes rarely kill trees immediately. Here on the Douglas County Fairgrounds, there is a tree that was struck many years ago and is still trudging along. It has a long scar all the way down one side, some dead branches and not many leaves.
Even though a tree may live for years after a lightning strike, it is now more susceptible to other insect and disease problems. The tree must also put a lot of energy into healing its new wound, so branches may die back as the tree tries to compensate.
Trees that lose branches in the wind will be less stressed than a lightning struck tree, it is also more susceptible to insect and disease and will be putting energy into healing.
The most important thing to think about when evaluating a damaged tree is to consider what damage would occur if the tree falls. A tree that leans over your child's play set or your driveway is a larger risk than one that is in the middle of a large open area.
Tree species and condition are also important. A previously healthy oak tree may be better able to heal than a hackberry that already had some disease problems.
Stubs from broken branches that are left in the tree should be removed back to the next branch with a smooth cut just outside of the branch collar - not flush with the branch. And please, please avoid using pruning paints. Pruning paints are kind of like bandages - they make us feel better but do not provide any benefit to the tree. Petroleum-based pruning paints may actually do more harm than good by preventing the tree from healing.
If you have a damaged tree and are unsure about what to do with it, contact a certified arborist for evaluation. Get more than one evaluation and/or estimate - costs can vary greatly from company to company. The arborist should be certified with either the Kansas Arborists Association or the International Society of Arboriculture, or both. You may also wish to verify their liability insurance.
Tree work can be expensive, but home repair from a damaged tree will probably cost more.
Find more information about proper pruning techniques at www.douglas.ksu.edu.