Last week's windstorm caught more than a few of us — and our trees and roof shingles — unprepared. The winds have died down...

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Last week’s windstorm caught more than a few of us — and our trees and roof shingles — unprepared.

The winds have died down, but many homeowners are still wrangling with the after-effects of damage.

If you suffered property damage and are unsure about what to do, here are a few tips:

Tree damage to your home or shingles that flew off from wind are generally covered by homeowners insurance. Call your insurance company as soon as possible, and take pictures of the damage, said Brad Weekly, regional director of the NW Insurance Council, a Seattle-based group of insurance companies.

Even if your house isn’t visibly damaged, consider checking the roof if you can do it safely. (From the ground, use binoculars.) Shingles may be missing or a branch might have punctured the roof.

Make temporary repairs if it is safe. If you’re worried about roof leaks, one quick fix is to put up a tarp until major repairs can be done, Weekly said. Save receipts.

Assume downed power lines are “live.” Stay far from them, and call the power company immediately.

Resources


Tree Care Industry Association: www.treecareindustry.org

Seattle City Arborist: www.seattle.gov/transportation/arborist.htm

NW Insurance Council: www.nwinsurance.org

International Society of Arboriculture: www.isa-arbor.com/home.aspx

American Society of Consulting Arborists: www.asca-consultants.org

Check damaged trees

Assess tree damage. If a tree doesn’t have major structural damage, it probably will recover, according to the Seattle City Arborist Web site. If the major limbs or main leader is broken, it will be harder for the tree to recover. A tree with less than 50 percent of its foliage also may not survive.

Get a professional assessment. Look for arborists with ISA (International Society of Arboriculture) Arborist Certification, membership in the American Society of Consulting Arborists or firms that are part of the Tree Care Industry Association.

Pruning and installing cabling and bracing are two options a professional may take for maintaining damaged trees, according to the Tree Care association.

Recycling trees

Fallen trees and branches can be put to use in the garden. Here are some suggestions from King County:

Consider leaving fallen trees in your yard. They can be ground or chipped into mulch, which can be spread around shrubs. Rent chipping machines, or hire someone to do the job for you. See www.metrokc.gov/dnrp/swd/naturalyardcare/mulch.asp

Recycle fallen trees into wood chips at commercial processors. Today only for homeowners, Rainier Wood will take branches, limbs and trunks from fallen trees and unpainted, untreated fencing for free. 8 a.m.-4 p.m., 32300 148th Ave. S.E., Auburn, 253-333-0333 or 33216 S.E. Redmond Fall City Road (State Route 202), Fall City, 425-222-0008.

Other options include creating brush piles 3-5 feet in diameter, which attract birds; leaving root wads for small animals; leaving a snapped tree as a wildlife snag; using timber as edging for your lawns or garden beds; and letting wood decay, though it should be kept away from your home.

Avoid topping trees. It makes a tree more likely to fall.

For information on tree disposal, see king.wsu.edu/forestry/windstorm.html

Prep for the next storm

Making sure your trees are healthy is one way to prevent them from toppling over in a big storm, according to the Tree Care Industry Association.

Here are some tips:

Look for warning signs, including branches touching electrical wires. Also look for dead or partially attached limbs high up that could fall and cause damage.

Check for signs of weakness, like cracked stems and branch forks, hollow or decayed areas on the trunk or main limbs, mushrooms growing from bark, peeling bark or gaping wounds in the trunk, and fallen or uprooted trees putting pressure on other trees. Heaving soil at the base also could mean the root system isn’t sound.

Consult an arborist about these warning signs. Ask the arborist to look for hazards such as stress cracks, weak branches and other indicators.

Remember that even if a tree survived several storms, it might not make it through the next one. Prune properly to reduce the weight and length of tree limbs and the tree’s resistance to wind movement. Cables and bracing also can help keep branches or even the whole tree from falling.

Nicole Tsong: 206-464-2150 or ntsong@seattletimes.com