Drought makes trees more vulnerable to wind, storms

Drought makes trees more vulnerable to wind, storms (Image 1)

Forestry experts warn persistent drought conditions in Tennessee have made trees more vulnerable to gusts of wind.

The National Weather Service reports that at least 64% of Tennessee is experiencing severe drought conditions.

Severe drought conditions mean agricultural losses may occur. The fire risk is very high and water shortages are common.

Many municipalities have placed fire bans in place and water restrictions.

According to the National Weather Service, at least 9% of the state is in an extreme drought.

Extreme drought conditions are marked by significant agricultural losses, extreme fire danger and widespread water shortages.

Afternoon storms have caused several trees to fall across Middle Tennessee this week.

The trees have damaged homes and brought down power lines, leaving thousands of residents without power for some period of time.

According to Nashville's News 2 weather experts many of the trees were toppled by winds of about 60 miles-per-hour.

Typically, according to Lisa Patton, trees should be able to withstand those kinds of winds.

On Friday, a large tree fell in the front yard of Nancy McCool's home in Joelton.

“I heard a crash but I didn't think about it being in my front yard,” she said. “I looked out my front window and the tree was laying in my front yard.”

Part of the large tree was still standing, but the trunk split sending the majority of the large tree falling to the ground.

“It surprises me because you don't think a storm with wind is going to topple a [large] tree down,” she said.

According to the Forestry Division of the Department of Agriculture for Tennessee, the drought conditions can cause the roots of a tree to shrink.

When the roots shrink they are less able to deliver water to the tree. The tree then becomes dry and brittle.

The shrinking roots also make it harder for the tree to stay securely in the ground when it is hit with gusts of winds.

The Forestry Division's Information and Education Program Specialist said the lack of water also causes the ground to become dry and fragile.

“Certainly, all those factors can make a tree more prone to breaking in the wind,” Tim Phelps said. “The drought is also causing trees to lose leaves earlier than normal.”

Tennessee's Division of Forestry has created a special web page that addresses many questions surrounding Tennessee's drought conditions.

The site also has ways for people to protect livestock, crops, pets and plants from the long term effects of drought.

According to the National Drought Forecast Map published by The National Integrated Drought Information System, most of Tennessee's drought situation is expected to persist or intensify.

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