Which trees will likely survive Hurricane Florence? Curious NC investigates.

More from the series

Read more from the CuriousNC project

What do you wonder about North Carolina? Help us find and investigate stories that matter to you.

Expand All

Eyeing that large oak tree outside your yard as Hurricane Florence approaches?

You’re not the only one. Several Curious NC readers have asked questions about which trees are likely to survive the storm, if anything can be done to protect their homes or if they should sleep on the first floor.

Curious NC is a joint project among The News & Observer, The Herald-Sun and The Charlotte Observer to answer reader questions they may have about North Carolina.

What should I do with my trees before the storm?

Unfortunately, much of the time needed to prepare trees for a hurricane has already passed. Strong, healthy trees are the ones most likely to make it through a storm.

If you did prune your trees, make sure to dispose of the limbs so they don’t become projectiles during the storm.

What shouldn’t I do before the storm?

It’s tempting to cut off the top and side branches (called topping) before a storm but the North Carolina Forest Service says this will make the tree weaker and less likely to make it through a hurricane.

“Topping will not make a tree more able to withstand a storm,” according to a state Forest Service fact sheet. “In fact the very opposite is true. Topping will result in weakly attached branches and internal decay that makes a tree more prone to breakage during a storm.”

Also don’t “Lion’s Tail” your trees. That’s when people strip out the interior branches and leave longer branches sticking out. These types of cuts make a tree more likely to fall during a storm.

What should I do if a tree falls on my house?

Cody Dulaney, a reporter with The State in Columbia, S.C., outlined four steps people should take if a tree launches itself through your roof. Make sure you and your family are safe and secure before trying to address the tree, call for help by dialing 911, contact your insurance company and then take steps to make repairs.

People should avoid sleeping under windows during a storm and the safest place is normally the center of a person’s home or stairwell, says Brian Haines, public information officer for the North Carolina Forest Service.

What if I see a fallen tree in the road?

Contact your local authorities or reach out to your police department’s non-emergency numbers to let them know a tree is blocking the street. If you live in the city of Raleigh, people are encouraged to call 919-996-2999 to report non-emergencies including roads that are flooded and trees that have fallen into roads.

Which trees are more likely to fall?

As the wind picks up and the ground becomes saturated, trees throughout the area are going to fall. Historically, in the aftermath of Hurricane Fran, the city of Raleigh saw numerous oak trees become uprooted and come down.

A North Carolina Cooperative Extension article says the best large wind-resistant trees for this area are live oaks, southern magnolia and bald cypress. Smaller trees that can do well include the dogwood, American holly, yaupon, crape myrtle and sabal palms.

What happens with the trees after the storm?

Be sure to look for power and utility lines that may be down. If you see a power line on the ground assume it’s live and can hurt you. And never walk or crawl under trees or tree limbs. Always try and go around them.

Do not rush out to buy a chainsaw and try to get rid of the tree yourself, especially if you’ve never operate a chainsaw. But also beware people who just show up at your house offering to cut up the trees for a fee. Use established businesses with proof of insurance.

The North Carolina Forest Service has a staging area in Raleigh that, along with the N.C. Emergency Management and N.C. National Guard, will be used to push out resources to the area as needed after the hurricane. Another staging area is also in Kinston.

The city of Raleigh is creating a debris plan and Raleigh spokesperson John Boyette said “once the storm passes and we do (a) quick assessment, we will have additional details about the cleanup plan.”

The city did send out an email saying it would collect storm debris including plant debris like logs, tree branches, unbagged leaves and plants. The city would also collect construction and demolition debris and appliances and air conditioners under the “white goods” debris category.

My tree didn’t fall but will it survive?

It’s best to talk to a local tree removal company or arborist before deciding if a tree will survive after the storm.

The North Carolina Forest Service says trees most likely to survive are those with good root systems, have 50 percent or more of their top branches or crown, are younger trees and didn’t lose more than one or two major branches.

It also says that trees that have a split trunk, are leaning more than before the storm, were in bad condition before the hurricane, have broken or cut roots and have cracks in the main trunk or base are less likely to survive.

Anna Johnson; 919-829-4807; @anna_m_johnson

Ask CuriousNC about hurricane recovery:


Can't see a place to enter your question? Follow this link, instead.

Follow more of our reporting on Hurricane Florence

See all 10 stories