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Chicago Urban Gardening

The day to day experiences of a University of Illinois Extension Urban Horticulture Educator in Chicago, Illinois

Violent Wind Storms Hit Chicago

Posted by Ron Wolford -

One cannot appreciate the damage wind storms cause to trees until they've experienced a storm like the one that passed through Chicagoland on August 4, 2008. Fortunately, major wind storms do not occur on a regular basis. The trees that normally take the brunt of the damage - Chinese and Siberian elms, poplars, silver maples, birches and willows - are the predictable victims. All of these species have brittle wood and are easily damaged by wind storms.

Homeowners often plant fast-growing species like the ones mentioned above for rapid shade. Fast-growing trees normally have brittle wood and develop weak, V-shaped crotches that easily split apart under added weight. Often, trees with extensive internal rot and decay that may not have been evident from the exterior receive severe damage. Many times these trees overhang the house, driveway or power lines servicing the home. When large limbs or tree tops are broken in a wind storm, they can cause major damage and expense.

For homeowners with trees with major limb or top damage, two questions should be addressed. The first one is: "Does the condition of the tree warrant efforts to save it or should it be removed?" Major tree repair can be quite expensive and should only be attempted if a major portion of the tree is still intact and efforts can be made to maintain its attractiveness and value to the property. If the whole side or top is gone, it's questionable whether it's worth spending the time and money to salvage the tree. This is especially true if it's one with brittle wood that lends itself to similar problems in the future. While no one wants to remove a large, mature tree, the prudent decision may be to replace it with a young tree possessing desirable qualities.

The second question to consider is: "Can you handle the damage repair yourself or should you seek professional help?" Small limbs can be removed easily with pruning shears or a pole-lopper provided they are within your reach. Do you feel comfortable climbing a ladder up into the tree? Power equipment should never be operated from a ladder or in the tree where firm footing is questionable. Removing hanging limbs should be left to professional tree services. Look for them under Tree Service in the Yellow Pages. Make sure they carry proper liability and workmen's compensation insurance before allowing them to start the job. Ask if they have a certified arborist on their staff. You can also find a certified arborist through the International Society of Arboriculture website at

The following are websites with information on how to deal with storm damaged trees and flooding:

Repair and Replacement of Storm Damaged Trees

Points on how to repair storm damaged trees and what to consider when replacing a tree

Storm Damage to Landscape Trees: Prediction, Prevention and Treatment

How to identify trees that may be susceptible to storm damage and steps to take to prevent damage

Repairing Storm Damage to Trees

Tips on repairing trees damaged by wind, ice and lightning

Repairing Storm Damage to Landscape Trees

Understanding the effect of floods on trees

Can These Trees Be Saved?

How to evaluate a tree for repair or replacement

Trees Are Good

Tree care information from the International Society of Arboriculture

Selecting Trees for Your Home

This site will help you make knowledgeable decisions when selecting a tree for your landscape

Illinois Tree Selection

This website provides you with a guide for selecting the best tree for your situation. It includes selection information, a list of some common diseases, and common insect or insect related problems for each species.

The overnight storms have resulted in tens of thousands of customers of the various electric utilities being without power. The latest word from ComEd and Ameren is that some of the outages may last for several days. Here are a couple of resources providing information about food safety and preparation during power outages:

Safe Food Handling During Power Outages

The safety of food may be a problem following any storm where electricity has been interrupted for an extended period of time. The following information is intended to help you judge the safety of your food after a power outage.

Preparing Food during a Power Failure

During a power failure, cooking and eating habits must change to fit the situation. You may have no heat, no refrigeration and limited water. In addition, health risks from contaminated or spoiled food may increase.

University of Illinois Disaster Fact Sheets

Fact sheets on disaster preparedness and recovery

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