Look out below: Trees losing limbs over unprecedented dry spell
CTV Vancouver Island
Published Monday, August 24, 2015 3:13PM PDT
Last Updated Monday, August 24, 2015 8:01PM PDT
Next time you walk under a tree, you may want to keep an eye to the sky.
An unprecedented dry spell in the Capital Region is putting so much stress on trees that limbs are breaking off and striking vehicles and power lines – and nearly hitting people.
“Recently we’ve seen some large limbs fall out of a number of species,” said Trevor Coey of Bartlett Tree Experts. “Garry Oaks are the ones that are highest on the radar.”
The area has seen several branch-related accidents in the last month, including one that smashed into a pair of parked vehicles in Oak Bay.
Last week a falling tree branch struck power lines in Sooke, and the resulting sparks ignited nearby dry brush – leading to a massive fire and power outage in the area.
Meanwhile in Victoria last week, a cyclist in the Cook Street area was nearly hit by a falling branch that blocked traffic for hours.
BC Hydro said it operates a vegetation management program to keep power lines clear of tree branches, but wires are still at the mercy of Mother Nature.
“There’s not much we can do about the weather, and that can pose a lot of stress on the trees,” said company spokesman Ted Olynyk.
Coey said there are numerous theories as to why branches are breaking off – but much of it has to do with the unprecedented drought in the region this year.
All things considered, I would say trees are extremely drought-stressed at this time,” he said. “Transpiration – moisture being lost through the leaves – tends to lighten the limb but with the head and the prolonged dry weather, it almost becomes an issue of hydraulic pressure within the limb.”
Pedestrians can look for warning signs on trees such as structural defects, limbs that are too long or heavy as well as large dead branches within the canopy.
Homeowners with trees on their property should be diligent with watering, and most trees should receive one inch of water per week, Coey said.
Pruning is also a good idea, as humidity levels can build up in especially dense canopies and add extra weight.
If lawn turf runs up against the base of your tree – you may want to rethink your landscaping, Coey said.
“Tree roots and turf roots do not get along well,” he said. “For the health of your tree, you should install a nice composted organic mulch. It’ll reduce evaporation and drought stress on roots and encourage good soil activity.”
With a report from CTV Vancouver Island’s Scott Cunningham
Two vehicles were smashed by a large falling tree limb in Oak Bay last month. Aug. 24, 2015. (CTV Vancouver Island)
A tree branch nearly hit a cyclist and blocked traffic for hours on Cook Street in Victoria last week. Aug. 24, 2015. (CTV Vancouver Island)