Two Sundays ago we in Goshen were mostly lucky in the treatment that we received from storms that tore across the Midwest, creating widespread destruction in some places. I’m aware of only a small handful of trees, or parts of trees, that these storms blew down in town, causing damage. While the damage I saw — to cars, rain gutters and roofs — is certainly not insignificant to those who have to deal with it, we can all see that it could have been much worse.
There is no way to know exactly what will happen to trees and property during a storm. Our own experience with a small tornado in late June 2010 bears that out. In that storm we lost an estimated 110 trees across Goshen. In some cases beautiful, healthy trees came down next to weakened, suspect trees.
There are several lessons that I take from storm events like the one two Sundays ago. The first lesson I’ve basically spelled out already: It’s hard to predict accurately what trees will do in a storm. That’s pretty common sense. The second lesson is pretty common sense, as well: Some trees are going to be damaged, possibly seriously, and as a result will cause damage to nearby property. Again, there is no good way to predict which trees will be damaged, and how they will affect surrounding valuables. But if we look at the overall picture of Goshen — 13,000 street trees plus anywhere from double to quintuple that on private property — then its easy to guess some trees will be damaged and cause damage in a strong enough storm. Clearly the weaker the tree, the more likely it is to be damaged.
That last point is a really important one. It leads to the third lesson that I always review after storms: We have to react better to weakened trees in Goshen. The question is, how? In an ideal world the solutions are easy, ranging from eliminate all strong storms to eliminate all weak trees. Of course, in the real world, neither can be done, either because it’s geophysically impossible, logistically impossible or financially impossible. Nevertheless, since we can’t control the weather, we have to try to find and remove weakened trees as best we can.