Five Steps to Take If Your Tree Is Struck by Lightning


It can be frightening to see one of your landscape trees struck by lightning. Damage from the strike can vary from minor to severe, so it's important to know what to do following a strike.

1. Inspect for Hazards

The first step is to always address any immediate hazards posed by the strike. This may mean putting out any areas of the tree that are on fire or smoldering, but only after first verifying that there are no power lines down on or around the tree. Dangerous damage to the tree must also be addressed. For example, if there is a major branch that is partially severed, it will need to be promptly removed before it falls and hurts someone. You can worry about tending to lesser damage after the storm has cleared.

2. Tend Any Immediate Damage

Lightning strikes can cause varying types of damage. In some cases, only a bit of bark may be blown off the trunk. In this case, all that needs to be done is the ragged bark edges should be cut cleanly so the tree can attempt to heal. More severe damage may include a split trunk or the loss of a major branch. In these cases, the trunk may need to be splinted and wrapped or the trunk may need to be staked as it heals. Otherwise, the split can worsen or the uneven canopy may cause the tree to fall.

3. Practice Some Patience

No matter the extent of the damage, the tree may yet recover. Avoid heavy pruning and final decisions on the tree for several months. It usually takes at least a season before the severity of lightning damage is known. For example, if your tree is struck in fall or winter, wait to see if it recovers or begins to decline after the flush of spring growth is over. A spring or early summer strike may not show the severity of the damage until late summer or even the following spring.

4. Monitor for Additional Issues

Sometimes it isn't the lightning strike that kills the tree, but diseases or pests that take advantage of the weakened state of the tree following the strike. Keep an eye out for increased insect activity on the tree, as well as for disease symptoms such as fungal or bacterial growths. Prompt treatment may be needed if you notice these issues.

5. Make a Removal Decision

If after several months the wounds on the tree aren't healing or if the health of the tree continues to decline, you will need to make the tough decision to have it removed. Don't attempt to do this yourself. Instead, bring in a professional service that can safely take down the tree without causing any more damage to your property.

Contact a tree removal and maintenance service for more help with a lightning-struck tree.


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