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Drought, winter can take toll on trees
Stressful conditions increase risk of fall
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Forsyth County News


Report a tree that might be in danger of falling.

• If a Forsyth County road is impacted, call the county’s roads and bridges department at (770) 781-2155 or the engineering department at (770) 781-2165.

• If a road in Cumming is affected, call the city’s street department at (770) 781-2019.

• If a state road is impacted, call the state Department of Transportation area office at (770) 535-5759.

The falling level of Lake Lanier is not the only visible sign of tightening drought conditions in north Georgia.

Particularly with the approach of winter, trees are also feeling the effects of the hot, dry summer and fall.

Forsyth County arborist Greg Wallace said the prolonged drought, currently rated abnormally dry to severe in Forsyth and other counties surrounding the lake, has dried out the soil.

Winter officially arrives next week. Precipitation in the winter months, which are typically wetter, can loosen the area around a tree’s roots, making it more susceptible to falling.

“Because that soil’s been dry and shrunk, so to speak, and it gets wet and loose, it makes those trees easier to topple over,” Wallace said.

A tree’s top branches are also vulnerable to winter weather.

“If snow accumulates in the branches of the tree — or ice does — then it adds a lot of weight to the tree. It makes it more top heavy,” Wallace said.

“When you’ve got winds too, in conjunction with that, it makes it more susceptible to blow over.”

The drought has also left trees more prone to disease or insect attacks, he added, which in turn has led to more dead trees this season.

It’s difficult to tell when a tree might be susceptible to falling, Wallace said.

Potential warning signs include decay or hollow cavities and mushrooms near its base. A tree whose neighboring trees have recently fallen might also be in danger.

If residents see a possible problem tree near a road, they can contact county or state government.

According to Forsyth County spokeswoman Jodi Gardner, if the “dead or damaged tree or limb” in question is on county right of way, then employees with the roads and bridges department will conduct an inspection.

“[The county will] then further evaluate to determine if it could potentially endanger the health and safety of the public,” Gardner wrote in an e-mail.

“This decision requires that county staff exercise discretion and judgment in making a decision that the tree or limb may present a hazard.”

In that case, she wrote, the county would perform the work required, including removal of the tree or limb if warranted.

If the tree of concern is on private property but potentially impacting a right of way, the county would evaluate the situation.

It would not, however, come on the property to remove anything, according to Gardner.

“If the county determined in its discretion that the trees were or could present a hazard,” she wrote, “the county would facilitate discussion with the property owner and advise them of and request they remove the hazard.”

She added that that would likely be a “rare circumstance.”

The same procedures are in place for city of Cumming right of way, said Administrator Gerald Blackburn.

For trees possibly impacting state roads, the state Department of Transportation should be contacted.