Too little rain for several years took a toll on the health of many of the south's large oak trees - and now too much rain may deal a final blow.
"Because of weakened roots," says Randy Teal of the Georgia Forestry Commission in Upson County. "After years of drought, the tree's roots may be shallow and now the rain has made the soil more pliable. The trees' roots have weakened holding power, which may cause them to collapse."
A tree can collapse suddenly, falling without warning across a home or a roadway. Earlier this year a 70-foot oak fell across a road in the Atlanta area, striking a passing vehicle and killing a young mother and her two sons.
"That tragedy should be a wake-up call to homeowners and public officials alike," Teal says. He says trees need
proper mulching, watering, pruning and fertilizing - and large trees should be examined by a certified arborist periodically to identify problems not noticeable to the average person. The City of Thomaston has an ongoing program of removal and replacement of its stately oaks throughout residential neighborhoods. This program has helped minimize damage caused by falling trees.
Still, trees on private properties can pose a potential threat - both to the homeowner and others. However, removal of a tree is often a tough decision for a homeowner. "Our area is blessed with stately hardwoods," Teal says. "Our big trees provide beauty and charm and shade on hot sumer days. But these trees can also be hazards, especially after five months of above-average rainfall following years of drought."
"It is hard for the owner of the tree to see it come down. They hate to loose it," says Downey Poteat, who operates a tree service business in the area. However, Poteat said removal of the tree is a better option than waiting for it to fall.
"We have gotten many calls with big oak trees down," said Poteat. "This year we have seen more trees down and damaged than in the past years due to the amount of rain."
Felton Reeves, owner of Reeves Tree Service, says his company is receiving several calls each week about fallen trees. "With the saturation of the ground, the roots of the trees have nothing to hold on to," he said.
For more information, contact the Forestry office, 646-6011.