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7 tips for checking your trees before high winds arrive in the Baltimore area

Gusty winds are expected to continue sweeping the region Friday after heavy rains caused some flooding in the Baltimore area.

The National Weather Service has issued a wind advisory from 1 p.m Friday until 5 a.m. on Saturday in portions of the far northwest Baltimore-Washington suburbs. Winds during Friday afternoon and evening might be more sporadic, but the threat for 45-50 mph gusts seems likely, according to forecasters.

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Kevin Mullinary, district manager of The Davey Tree Expert Company’s Baltimore city branch, offers some tips for homeowners to give their trees an inspection to check for falling risks.

1) Check the roots in a circle about 10 feet around the trunk. Heavy rainfall could have waterlogged the soil. “If the root system is lifting up on one side or the other, that’s a sign that there has been some root damage,” Mullinary said. “If that's happening, call an arborist quickly.”

2) Check the base of a tree for mushrooms or for cavities in the trunk. Both are signs that the tree might be dying from the inside.

3) Long vertical cracks splitting a tree trunk are another warning sign of imminent problems. Mullinary said these trees should be dealt with immediately to prevent them from falling on something — or someone — they shouldn’t.

4) Are there dead branches? (These will be easier to spot in deciduous trees in a few months, after the rest of the tree has leafed out.) If so, they should be removed.

5) Heavy canopies of leaves catch more wind during storms. They should be thinned to allow gales to pass through.

6) Big branches that are crowded too close together may form a weak union that won’t support both limbs. “A ‘U’-shaped crotch where the branches comes together signals a relatively strong branch union,” Mullinary said. “What you don’t want to see is a V-shaped crotch with a seam running down it.”

7) Similarly, if a tree is leaning to one side or if a branch is growing in a different direction to the rest of the crown, it should probably be removed.

Mullinary also recommended that homeowners conduct a second inspection a few months after a wind storm, saying it could caused problems that will develop gradually. For example, winds that tear off branches can develop cankers, or a wound that never fully heals. Cankers are easily spotted and should be pruned back to the branch collar, or swelling where the branch joins the trunk.

“Go outside and take a peek at your trees,” Mullinary said. “If you have a gut feeling that something is a concern, it probably is.”

Baltimore Sun reporter Lillian Reed contributed to this article.

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Note: This article was originally published after a “bomb cyclone” on March 6, 2018. It was adapted and updated ahead of more possible high winds March 22, 2019.

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