Tree Safety during an Ice Storm. Click here if you have storm damage NOW!

First you need to identify trees that are at a higher risk of failing during an ice storm. We will cover the following five points briefly:

  1. How to spot trees in your yard that present a higher risk during an ice storm.
  2. Best “anytime” strategies for making your yard safer during an ice storm.
  3. Common myths about tree failure.
  4. How much ice is too much?
  5. How to get a professional evaluation. 770-479-9611


Ice makes tree branches very heavy.

Ice on needles

The first response is to look for risk, but without standing under the tree. That makes since, right? If not, please call us at 770-479-9611

Some ways to tell if your tree is a candidate to fail in an ice storm:

Trees can fall for many reasons. The single most predictable type of tree failure occurs during ice storms. Why? Because an ice storm causes a tree to become too heavy and it makes trees that are already off balance increasingly prone to failure.  Storms that occur while trees still have their leaves cause more damage to a larger variety of trees. In January in Atlanta, most trees have lost their foliage. Evergreen trees, such as Pine trees, leyland cypresses, and other trees and plants with remaining foliage are the most likely to fail. The foliage creates more surface area which the ice attaches to. This greatly increases the weight. Accumulations of ice can increase the branch weight of trees by a factor of 10 to 100 times.

We can simplify ice storm failures into 3 primary types of failures.

  1. The branch that is over weighted break off the tree.
  2. The tree trunk bends over and snaps as the total number of branches collectively over power the tree trunk.
  3. The tree simply rips out of the ground..

For help with your trees call us at 770-479-9611

Most common characteristics of a tree that fails in an ice storm:

  1. Trees that have most of their limbs growing on one side. This make it unbalanced. Ice increases the weight in the direction that most of the limbs are growing.
  2. Trees that are evergreen have winter foliage. This means they have more surface area for the ice to stick to.
  3. Trees with cavities or defects.
  4. Co-dominate trees. This is a tree with a “V” shape. This is different from a “U” shaped growth in a tree.
  5. Restricted or unbalanced root systems.
  6. Trees that have included bark that grows into itself, for example between branches. The yellow pointer is a good branch without included bark, and the blue pointer points to a weaker branch resulting from included bark.

In-depth examples of strong and weakly formed branches.

A common myth:

Large trees fail more than smaller trees. This is untrue. A healthy tree that has a larger trunk can typically handle a greater ice load than a typical branch can hold. Therefore as over weighted branches snap off the healthy tree. The tree becomes lighter, immediately reducing the weight and stress on the still standing tree. Pine trees, for example, that are less than 13” to 15” in diameter fail far more frequently than larger trees. So don’t think that just because you have a big tree it is more prone to failure. It is not. Trees from 4” to 14” inches seem to break more often than larger trees.

Best strategies for making your yard safer:

  1. Keep trees in groups that have enough space for the light they need, but close enough for them to lean into one another for stability. Over-stressed trees can rest against each other many times, preventing tree failure.
  2. Allow trees to have enough space so that they grow branches equally in all directions.

How much ice is too much?

Ice accumulation can vary from a small, minute amount to 1 inch in diameter generally. Obviously, the amount of damage increases with greater accumulations of ice. When there is between 1/4 and 1/2 inch of ice you will find small and weak limbs breaking, whereas 1/2-inch to 1-inch or greater accumulations can cause larger branches to snap, causing high incidents of tree damage.

How to get a professional evaluation. 770-479-9611

Call Risk Management Disaster Service and Tree Service. We are willing to help you determine the real risk- or the lack of risk- present in your yard. Read more about us at  or call 770-479-9611.