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What to Do if Your Tree Is Struck by Lightning

One of the greatest threats to large trees is lightning. Every year, thousands of trees get blown to kingdom come by lightning strikes. Usually lightning strikes during tempestuous weather, yet it has been known to strike even on clear, sunny days. Because of how common lightning strikes are, there is always a possibility that one of your big trees will get hit sometime, especially during the spring and summer. This guide is for those of you who want to be prepared before that happens, so you know exactly what to do if and when it does.

With the possibility of strong to severe thunderstorms in Southern Vermont, it’s crucial that you are prepared for a strike. This guide will go over the details, but if you want to dive in and learn more about managing a lightning strike of a tree on your property, call Wise Oak, Inc. and get a free consultation regarding lighting strikes and any other problems with your property. We offer services from tree care and landscaping to winter services and property management. Call us today and discover what we can do for you!

What Happens to a Tree Struck by Lightning?

You will feel the lighting impact the tree instantaneously. The moment it strikes the tree, the liquid in it will immediately turn to gas, causing the outer layers of the tree to explode. The result of a lighting strike is quite devastating, with around 50% of the tree being immediately killed, and the rest of it usually being damaged and extremely vulnerable to disease. Trees that are commonly hit by lighting in Vermont are oak, maple, poplar, and pine.

Assess the Damage

The first thing to do when a tree is struck by damage is to A) put out the fire if there is one and then B) assess the damage. There are three possible outcomes for when a tree is struck by lighting:

  1. It is undamaged

  2. It is damaged but survives with a scar

  3. It dies

Lighting strikes can actually leave trees undamaged, in some cases. What usually causes this is that the exterior of the tree has been soaked by heavy rain, causing the lighting to cascade only around the outside of the tree, leaving it relatively undamaged.

Sometimes when a tree is struck by lighting it survives but with serious scarring. The scars occur because, with most trees, water is stored just under the bark. As water is an extremely good electrical conductor, the lighting will strike and obliterate the outer layers of the tree. This is the most common result of a lightning strike.

Lastly, a tree may die from a lightning strike, especially if it already suffers from a compromised structure or has been struggling with disease. Since trees suffering from diseases tend to concentrate their water content deeper down in their trunks, it creates a scenario where a lightning strike is able to penetrate to the plant’s center, completely destroying it. It can be like a small bomb going off, with shrapnel of branches and huge chunks of wood blasting off in all directions.

Assessing the damage is going to help you identify what to do next. If your tree is totally destroyed, there’s not much you can do besides grind down the stump and clean up the mess. If the tree is not totally destroyed, however, there are some other things you can do to help it out:

How to Take Care of Your Tree After It Has Been Struck by Lightning

First thing’s first: wait a few minutes to let the electrical charge in the area settle down, so as to not get electrocuted yourself. Then, assess the damage. After assessing the damage, the first thing you should do is to supply your trees with a generous amount of water and fertilizer to help stimulate new growth. A damaged tree that survives till the spring is much more likely to survive a lightning strike, so take care of it during the cold months with great care. To help you do that, calling a professional arborist is a smart move. If you are in Southern Vermont, reach out to Wise Oaks and get your lightning-struck tree the care it needs to survive this difficult time. We will help by assessing, properly watering/fertilizing, mulching, and pruning. Make sure you don’t start any extensive pruning of your tree till a year or so after the damage, as, seeing how it is growing by then will give you a better idea of how much damage has actually been done. You don’t want to start pruning off parts of your tree that are going to survive!

If your tree doesn’t survive, however, we also can help with removing it. You don’t want to leave a lightning-struck tree standing around other trees, as it can lead to the spread of disease and other arboreal threats. Make sure to consult with one of our arboreal specialists to help you remove a heavily damaged tree.

Preventative Measures

Ideally, you want to make sure you are prepared before lighting strikes. One useful preventative measure you can implement is, for your tallest trees, installing a lightning protection system with the use of copper cables attached to the upper branches and going to the ground to act as a lightning rod and direct the electrical current safely into the ground, leaving the tree unscathed.

Helping Your Tree Recover

If a large tree on your property has been struck by lightning, you want to make sure it has the best chance it can get to recover. That’s why, if you are in Southern Vermont, make sure you call your local arborists team at Wise Oak to devise a strategy and give your tree all the resources it needs to have the best chance of survival. Having serviced Southern Vermont since 2005, we are proud to have helped care for some local trees after lighting wreaked havoc around here. Besides caring for damaged trees, Wise Oak, Inc. also offers landscaping services, winter services, property management services, and more. Reach out to us today to schedule a free consultation!