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Why Do Trees Fall After A Storm & Can We Prevent It?

Why Do Trees Fall After A Storm & Can We Prevent It?

Trees are important as a city’s green lung but improper care causes more trees to decay and fall.

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Many trees have fallen after a storm over the past week but one stood out the most. This incident occurred at Jalan Sultan Ismail, where a large tree fell on 17 vehicles and smashed the monorail track.

In this incident, the life of a 47-year-old man was lost while two others were injured. The monorail services were also delayed due to the downed track.

READ MORE: [UPDATED] Tree Crashes Onto Monorail Track In KL, One Dead

READ MORE: KL Hit By Yet Another Uprooted Giant Tree, This Time Near KLCC

The latest reported case happened yesterday (14 May) when falling trees narrowly missed Melaka Chief Minister Datuk Seri Ab Rauf Yusoh’s convoy at Jalan Pinang. No one was injured but the lead car and five motorcycles were damaged.

The trees that fell along Jalan Sultan Ismail. Image: TRP File

Why are these trees suddenly falling like dominoes?

Just like all living things, trees need a conducive environment to thrive. Trees are built to withstand harsh weather conditions but these factors can cause healthy-looking trees to fall:

Poor root system

A tree needs healthy and strong roots to hold itself upright in various weather conditions.

Roots need ample space to grow widely to form a good stable base for trees. However, increasing development in the city is not conducive for tree roots to grow as intended. Often, tree roots are cut off to make way for pavements and roads which lead to unstable trees.

Saturated soil

The ground becomes softer if it’s saturated with rainwater. When this happens, tree roots are likely to lose their hold because there’s not much to grab onto.

This is especially difficult for big trees with short or unhealthy roots because there’s nothing stable or firm for the roots to hold onto and hold the tree upright.

In addition, the excess moisture can cause roots to decay or rot in the long term.

Imbalanced trees

A tree can become top-heavy due to a surge of sap or fluid that had been drawn up into the leaf canopy. Due to the weight imbalance, heavy winds can cause the tree to topple.

On the other hand, trees that have their branches indiscriminately trimmed can also become unbalanced. In addition to having strong, healthy roots, the tree’s stability also depends on a balanced canopy with strong, healthy branches.

Damaged trees

Trees with damaged or diseased branches or a split trunk have to be carefully trimmed or removed by a trained arborist aka tree doctor/surgeon.

How do we have healthy trees?

Is there a way to save new and old trees to preserve our city’s green lung? Yes, there are several ways to do so.

For new trees, it’s best to make sure it’s planted deep enough in the ground with plenty of room for the roots to grow.

It’s also beneficial to grow trees in a group of five or more in the same soil space to make them storm resistant. This arrangement offers a degree of mutual protection, root stability, and a reduction of wind velocity.

The next steps involved maintenance which includes regular pruning and deadwood removal.

Trees at the Lake Gardens in Bangsar South in Kuala Lumpur, April 27, 2024. Image: Malay Mail

As for the current trees, the first step is to look for signs of damage or rot. Trees that are damaged or experiencing rot are likely the first to fall after a storm.

Some of the signs to look out for include:

Dead or falling branches

Dead or falling branches indicate a lack of nutrition in the tree.

Roots near water

Trees near a body of water run a risk of waterlogged roots which means possible root decay. Look for rot and decay at tree roots.

Fungus on roots

Fungus such as mushrooms growing at the tree base or roots is a sign of decaying or rotting roots.

Missing bark or deep marks

The area where the tree bark is missing, gashed or indented is called a “canker.” Cankers usually indicate dead sections of a tree and are structurally weaker areas that can easily break in the event of a storm.

Cracked or raised soil

If the soil on one side of the tree looks cracked or raised, the tree may be in the early stages of toppling. The tree needs to be stabilised, usually using non-evasive bracing methods, before it falls.

Once the signs of trouble are ascertained and dealt with, the trees can be kept healthy with regular pruning and care by a licensed arborist.

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