Tree pruning steps now can prevent storm damage later

Last June’s destructive storm showed that trees can be the victim of heavy wind storms. After that historic storm, lots of homeowners were trimming downed branches, clearing trees off rooflines and even making plans to remove large uprooted trees that fell victim to winds estimated at 80 to 100 mph. But, there’s steps you can take to prevent some of this type of tree damage next time.

This damage is often caused by defects in a tree. One way to minimize these defects is to perform preventative pruning in the first 10 to 15 years of a tree’s life.

According to OPPD foresters, pruning promotes good structure and makes the tree more resistant to storms. This preventative pruning directs the growth of the tree by cutting branches that aren’t growing correctly.

Below are some common defects to look for. Correcting these defects now will help your trees withstand severe weather. More tree planting tips can be found at

tree pruningCODOMINANT STEMS: These are stems of equal size originating from the same point on the tree. Codominant stems with a “V” shape at the joint often have included bark, which is bark pinched between two stems, creating a weak union. Prune to eliminate this defect by leaving the stem that will give the tree a dominant leader.

LARGE LOWER LIMBS: Low branches on large shade trees are temporary and should be removed early in a tree’s life. The lowest permanent branch on many shade trees should be 12 to 15 feet off the ground. Prune these branches early in the tree’s life to prevent larger pruning wounds in the future. If you remove these large limbs later in the tree’s life, it weakens the tree and makes it prone to storm damage.


TRE_Storm Damage Prevention_proper cutPROPER PRUNING: Follow the diagram at left when trimming limbs from your tree. If a cut is made correctly, the branch collar of the tree (the bulge where the limbs join) should be intact. A proper cut will leave a round wound with the callus tissue forming a “donut” shape.


Laura King-Homan

About Laura King-Homan

Laura King-Homan is a contributor to the Storm & Outage Center and a communications specialist at OPPD. She has nearly 20 years of print journalism and design experience, which lets her tell the stories of OPPD and its employees both graphically and through her writing.

9 thoughts on “Tree pruning steps now can prevent storm damage later

  1. Wow! You couldn't be more correct! Our company often gets called out for emergency tree services after a big storm has blown through the area and left tons of debris and downed trees. One of the things that we tell home and business owners is to make sure they try to do their preventative work in order to avoid having so much tree debris. Tree pruning, while very important, is often overlooked. If done correctly and on a regular basis, it can really solve a number of problems. We've taken pictures and posted some of what we're talking about here:
    Thanks for helping to spread the message! Best of luck!

  2. That is interesting to know that the lowest branch should be 12-15ft off the ground. I will have to make sure to see if mine are high enough. My trees lowest branch may just be 8 feet though, I will probably have to take care of it.

  3. Rose of Sharons are best pruned when dormant because the blooms will grow on new wood. It’s also one of the last trees to get its leaves in the spring, so every year I think I’ve killed mine, but they always come back (despite following an incorrect pruning schedule). However, this past spring, part of one of the trees didn’t come back, so when I consulted my manual, I discovered that we shouldn’t be pruning in fall and may have inadvertently killed the tree.

  4. I thought it was very interesting how the article said that pruning promotes good structure and makes the tree more resistant to storms. My father has a ton of trees in his backyard that he has trouble keeping properly trimmed and healthy, so he has been thinking about hiring a company to go to his home and help him take care of them. It would be beneficial for him to have the help of professionals to ensure that his trees are healthy enough to survive any storms that may hit his area.

  5. I appreciate that you pointed out that according to OPPD foresters, pruning promotes good structure and makes the tree more resistant to storms. My husband and I will have to start looking out how we can properly prune the trees in our backyard to make them stronger. However, I do think it’s also a good idea to know a good 24-hour storm damage company that could help you out in case something did happen to your trees during a storm. It’s always good to be prepared for every scenario.

  6. I didn’t realize performing preventative pruning during the first ten to fifteen years of a tree’s life is important to prevent storm damage! My husband and I planted a couple of trees in our yard three or four years ago and didn’t realize the importance of pruning since the trees were so small. We’ll have to see if there is a good tree trimming service in our area to help us get our trees in shape!

  7. Thanks for pointing out that pruning promotes good structure and makes the tree more resistant to storms. I have a couple of trees on my yard that I am worried about holding up in storms and I think it might be smart to hire a tree trimming service that can help make sure they are pruned right to help them resist storm a little bit better. I also think it would help make them look better which would add to the overall look of my landscape and that would be nice too.

  8. I had no idea that storm damage is often caused by defects in a tree. One of the branches of a tree near my home is getting close to the roof. I’ll have to look into professional pruning services.

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