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Why Did The Limb Fall?
September 9, 2011
Important issues like September 11th and what our politicians are doing are taking the headlines, but of note today in the early morning at 6:25 or so I was walking down the driveway to remove some materials from the front yard to the back since my wife was having a get together with friends at 8:30.
I head a pop and thought that sounded like gun fire and then a series of 3 pops and then a tearing sound and realized that it was a falling tree or a very large limbs coming down. Fortunately, it was just a very long limb from a willow oak that was located on the planting strip next door to our house and 40 feet below our driveway. We live on a street that has an island down the middle which separates four lanes of traffic, two on each side of the island. This limb blocked up our side of the street and the butt part of the limb was lodged in a lower fork about 30 feet below where the limb broke off. Had this been several years ago I would have gotten my chain saw and at least cleared the street so one lane of traffic could get by.
The city tree crew got there about 8:20 and I was curious to find out why the limb had broken off. There was no wind.
I discovered what it was so (read more here)
I took a few photos of the tree lodged in the fork, but the wound was facing upward so I could not see the top of the limb where it broke.
It is my opinion after over 42 years in the tree maintenance business that there is always a reason that a tree falls or a branch drops off. There is a term called “Sudden Limb Drop” that is often used when no other likely explanation is available. I think if one looks hard enough you can find it. After Hurricane Hugo struck Charlotte in 1989, I examined hundreds of uprooted trees and everyone of them showed why it failed.
In this case I was able to view the wound as the limb was being loaded on to the truck by a crane. The ten-inch willow oak limb had been very long and as said before there was no wind at the time. The jagged wound was about 14 inches long and just above it there was a round scar which was the calloused over wound where a limb was removed quite a few years ago. When a wound does not heal immediately usually when it is too large or the tree is not healthy, then decay will start. It was very obvious that there was some decay below that old wound and that was enough to cause a weakness. From the outside of the tree the decay would not have been visible, but since the healed over wound was on the upper side of the limb, it was the point of weakness and the fact there was some decay aggravated the process.
This is not uncommon. In this case had the limb been lightened up enough it would not have broken now. Would it have broken some years down the road is hard to tell. Interestingly, the limb that fell was attached to a very large limb that still hangs over the street.
If you have large trees get an experienced arborist to check them out for you.