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Recent storms have taken toll on trees
Arborist: Trees need preventive maintenance
Gainesville Street Department employees and a bystander on Monday prepare to move pieces of a large oak tree lying across Forrest Avenue when Kenneth Shields completes his cuts with a chain saw.

If soggy weather has you outdoors checking the health of your trees, you may be acting too late.

Gainesville certified arborist Odis Sisk said he tries to educate homeowners about trees and the surrounding ecosystem “so they have a better chance of noticing an issue before the issue is the tree has collapsed on their car.”

“It’s the same thing as owning a house or a boat,” he said. “You can’t just have it and neglect it for 50 years, then expect the tree to be a perfect specimen. Trees require maintenance.”

Plenty of area residents and businesses have seen nature’s wrath lately.

Recent storms have pounded saturated ground and weighed down tree branches and leaves. Then, with one strong blast of wind, trees have gone from vertical to horizontal, causing damage and knocking out power along the way.

A Gainesville public works crew had Forrest Avenue closed Monday so it could clear a fallen tree — one that was at least 4 feet in diameter — from the road.

One of the more frightening incidents lately involved a large oak that toppled on Green Street after it had been struck by lightning during a June 28 storm. It knocked down power lines, which ended up falling on a couple’s car as they were driving down the street.

William Hampton, who was in the car, said at the time that if they had traveled any farther, they would have been crushed under the trunk of the tree.

In recent storms, trees also have fallen on Springdale Road, Wessell Road, Chestatee Road, Blueberry Hills Drive, Athens Street at Ridge Road, and Stallworth Street.

“Trees are great, they are wonderful, but they can be a challenge,” said Chris Rotalsky, Gainesville’s assistant public works director.

Crews “try to monitor any trees that are within the (city’s) right of way as much as possible, and we look for things like dead limbs and other indicators that the tree is not doing real well,” he said.

“If there are any dead ones within the right of way, we try to take care of them as soon as possible.”

Passers-by who notice problems can report them, and it’s appreciated, Rotalsky said, “but that becomes a challenge when (they spot) a tree outside the right of way. With that, we try to work with the property owner to see if there is something they can do.”

One key point: A leaning tree doesn’t necessarily mean it’s about to fall.

“A lot of trees have grown that way from when they were saplings and their structure has been strengthened to lean that way,” Rotalsky said. “Trees grow toward the light, and they’re going to find that opportunity.”

Sisk, owner of Global Tree Preservation, said some of the things he looks for in a tree’s “potential failure” are uneven canopies, excessive leaning and the condition of the root system.

“A lot of the mature trees in urban areas are more susceptible to fungus, and a lot of the fungus ... affects the rooting areas, so they get root rot,” Sisk said.

One thing that’s certain about trees, he said, is they eventually fall.

“People think they live forever, but they fall down every single day all around the planet,” Sisk said. “Trees falling down is part of the natural ecosystem, to put nutrients back into the soil and also allow new plants an area of sunlight to grow.”

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