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In a city of trees, 7 signs your Atlanta home might be in danger

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What’s worse this year: Heavy, heavy rains have strained the root systems of trees around the city

A large swath of trees dominate the foreground with city buildings in the background.
Atlanta’s dense canopy.
Jonathan Phillips, Curbed Atlanta

This winter, and especially these past two weeks, heavy downpours have saturated Atlanta’s grounds, weakening the root systems of trees throughout the city.

Combined with strong winds that accompany severe storms that commonly sweep through the region, it doesn’t take much to bring trees down.

Which makes it an opportune time to get outside in this city of trees and take a closer look for warning signs. It could help Atlantans save thousands of dollars—or something less replaceable.

To keep your trees healthy and, hopefully, to avoid damage from a fallen tree, Chris Heim, an ISA-certified arborist with The Davey Tree Expert Company in Atlanta, recommends checking for these seven red flags to gauge the health of your personal forest.

1. Look for dead wood. This can come in the form of leafless branches or an abundance of old bark on the ground, leaving behind smooth, bark-free wood on the tree.

2. Check for cracks that reach deep into the tree trunk.

3. Soft wood or holes could indicate decay is present within the tree. This decay could compromise the tree’s structure, resulting in a fallen tree.

People walking along a sidewalk lined with trees.
Rainy weather could take its toll on Atlanta’s tree-lined streets.
Georgia Department of Economic Development

4. Look for tree joints (where branches extend from the trunk, that is) that contain more than one branch.

If a tree joint has more than one branch, this weakens the tree structure because each branch is unable to securely attach itself to the trunk.

5. Examine the tops of trees, especially damaged trees, for broken limbs.

Removing these limbs and properly pruning the tree canopy allows wind to move through the branches rather than hitting against them, creating a boat’s sail effect.

6. Take a close look at the roots.

Is it leaning, or does it rock slightly back and forth? If so, you may need to reinforce the soil around the tree to provide support. Talk with your local nursery or landscaper for expert advice.

7. Step back and carefully assess the shape of your trees.

Is there excessive leaning? Do you see branches growing out of proportion with the rest of the tree? These signs could indicate weakness or structural imbalance within the tree.

A big city full of trees and shrouded in haze.
Atlanta’s tree canopy, as seen from Sandy Springs.
City Data

If you have concerns about the state of your trees, consult with an arborist or nursery specialist. Trees Atlanta also provides tips on how to care for your trees.

In fact, according to Georgia law, urban homeowners are required to visibly inspect their trees for obvious signs of disease or damage (to the naked eye—you’re not required to be an expert arborist); and, if problems are spotted, you’re required to take steps to remove the tree to prevent harm to others.

After all, if you were aware of a dead or diseased tree on your property and it falls on your neighbor’s property, it most likely will be your responsibility to remove it and pay for any related damages. Consult with your insurance company and personal attorney if you have questions.