The mid-February return of the winter vortex caused significant snowfall in much of the state and chaos in urban areas like Durham and Raleigh. But the now infamous photo of a car on fire on Glenwood Avenue in Raleigh was not the only destruction caused by the storm. According to the National Weather Service, ice accumulation reached a quarter-inch in some parts of the state. Not only is that bad news for the electric lines, but it can be bad news for trees as well.
After a severe winter storm, tree health may be on thin ice. Plants and trees burdened with the weight of snow and ice may become misshapen or lose branches due to breakage. When conditions are right (thick ice and strong winds), entire trees can snap. Typically, this most often occurs in urban areas or along forest edges, but in severe cases, large-scale destruction may occur.
This past Monday, the N.C. Forest Service took to the air to determine the extent of damage to the state’s forests. Reports indicated that damage was most severe and widespread in the southeastern part of the state, so aerial surveyors targeted that area. From the road, forest edges can be observed, but to really get an idea of what’s going on, viewing the region from the air is necessary. The survey revealed minimal damage in mature forest stands in several southeastern counties. There were areas where young trees had been bent over by the weight of the ice. Most of these trees should recover, but it will be long after the groundhog and his predicted extended winter before we know for sure.
Apparently, the winter vortex may be making another round this week and you may be facing snow and/or ice-laden plants again. To minimize damage to your plants and trees, you can gently brush off snow before it thaws and re-freezes (do not attempt to break ice off of plants). It may not immediately spring back to its original position, but it’s nothing to get bent out of shape about. The tree or plant should eventually return to its former glory.