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Arborist tells homeowners about signs of tree failure they should look for during storms

Arborist tells homeowners what signs of tree failure they should look for during storms
Arborist tells homeowners what signs of tree failure they should look for during storms 02:30

TIBURON -- As tree trimming companies scrambling to keep up with all the fallen trees brought down by the rainstorms, the demand for tree inspections has spiked as well.

That increase in tree inspection requests is largely due to one tragic incident during the recent storms.

These days, when the large Treemasters truck shows up at a house, it feels like the cavalry has arrived.

ALSO READ: Arborist puzzled by condition of storm-downed trees in East Bay

"Let's take a look up top," said company owner Tadd Jacobs as he trudged up the steep driveway with a worker.  He deploys his troops like they're going into battle.  

falling tree danger during stormy weather
Falling tree danger during stormy weather. CBS

"Let's have you and Mario go over it together. I'll get the chipper up the driveway," Jacobs told his employees at the job site.

On Wednesday, Treemasters was in Tiburon, where a pair of 40-foot Cypress trees snapped off during the high winds, just missing the house below. It's a familiar scene, as tree trimming companies across the Bay Area rush from one job to another.  

Jacobs said the problem is that, for the trees, the drought has actually lasted about 10 years. That's because during wet spells in recent otherwise dry years, the rain has come down hard and fast and ended abruptly. It may fill the reservoirs, but it hasn't helped the trees much at all.

"This rain's a little bit different," said Jacobs. "We're getting a lot of rain. it's consistent, it's low speed, so it's really saturating the soil. The trees have got a compromised root system from 10 years of drought and we're seeing a lot of uprootings and failures."

That has a lot of people looking at the large trees next to their homes in a different light.

Jacobs said demand for arborist inspections is up as well. But what really got the phones ringing was the tragic death of a two-year-old child in Sonoma County when a massive tree fell on a mobile home.

"Yes, people are more concerned about their trees. And it's unfortunate it took an event like that for them to be more aware of them. But, yes, we are getting a lot of people concerned about what happened," said Jacobs.

He said homeowners should look for cracks in the trunks of trees or in the earth nearby, or water welling up near the base.  

He said the upper branches can also show signs of weakness, but they may not be obvious to the untrained eye. That's why he seriously recommends an arborist inspection.

"It's just like going to see a doctor," he said.  "If someone walks into a room, they may look healthy, but the doctor may identify issues more quickly with their experience."

There may not be a lot of time to waste. Jacobs said the Bay Area has been lucky the winds during most of the recent storms were relatively moderate. He noted with the ground this saturated and the trees this weakened, a major wind event could cause widespread tree failures -- what he called an "arboricultural Armageddon."

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