Remember safety first during storm debris cleanup

RALEIGH, NC (September 18, 2018) — Hurricane Florence has resulted in damaged and downed trees and branches. The N.C. Forest Service is encouraging homeowners and anyone else looking to clean up after a storm to exercise caution and think safety first. Unless a damaged tree is a safety risk, tree removal decisions can come later after the storm cleanup. After a storm, hasty or emotional decisions about damaged trees can result in unnecessary removals or drastic pruning decisions. The following are some basic guidelines:

Debris cleanup

  • Cleaning up downed debris is fraught with safety risks including a debris field making for poor footing and potentially downed electric lines. If electrical wires are an issue, do not attempt tree work. Contact your utility company and let them remove the electrical wires. If you use a chainsaw, do so in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Work only on the ground and always wear personal protective equipment such as a hard hat and hearing and eye protection. Be aware of cutting any branches under tension or pressure.

Perform a general safety inspection of your trees

  • Is the soil around the base of the tree lifting or cracking? This may be an indication the tree may be falling over. Standing water, which often accompanies hurricanes, can cause additional stress and mortality.
  • Look up into the canopy of the tree. Are there any cracked, split or broken hanging branches?
  • These problems will need to be inspected and addressed by a qualified arborist.

Tree Pruning vs. Tree Removal

  • Trees that have lost branches and are not an immediate hazard may be preserved with corrective pruning. This decision need not be made immediately and should wait until after the cleanup. Again, a qualified arborist should inspect the tree to assist you in making your decision.

Choose a qualified and insured tree service or consulting arborist. To find qualified arborists in your area, visit The International Society of Arboriculture at, the American Society of Consulting Arborists at, or the Tree Care Industry Association at

You can get more information and advice on proper tree care and tree assessment following a storm by logging onto and following the links to storm recovery under forest health. Additional advice on proper tree care can be found on the N.C. Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program webpage at or by calling 919-857-4842.