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Hurricanes and Avoiding Tree Damage: An Interview with Kacy Keeffe of Arbor Bay Tree & Landscaping

By Kacy Keeffe

Tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

We are a family-owned tree service located in South Tampa servicing the Greater Tampa Bay Area. We provide all tree services such as removal, stump grinding, pruning, fertilization, risk assessment, root chasing, etc. We also provide commercial landscaping services, excavation and grading services, land clearing and ISA Certified Arborist consulting.

What does storm damage mitigation mean?

In a general sense, storm damage mitigation refers to securing one's home and property against any storm-related threat. The three most dangerous storm threats in Florida are floods, lightning and heavy winds (all of which accompany hurricanes). Specific to our industry, storm damage mitigation means reducing the risk of tree failure in the event of a serious storm.

What are some ways to prevent potential damages during hurricane season?

I will go over the three major threats I listed and give homeowners a way to reduce storm damage by assessing each threat individually. For flooding, simply having trees reduces the impact a flood can have on a home. Tree roots dig into the dirt, creating a porous sponge-like soil which absorbs water, and the tree itself acts as a barrier which slows flood-water flow. To prevent lightning damage, a good practice is to install a lightning protection system in your tallest tree which essentially turns the tree into a giant lightning rod and directs electric current safely away from your home. Strong wind damage is the most dangerous threat, but mitigation is as simple as having your trees regularly maintained. In short, call a local ISA Certified Arborist and ask for a risk assessment. The money you spend on prevention will save you tens of thousands in property damages.

Can you explain more about what regular tree maintenance should include?

Assuming a tree is kept in good condition, tree maintenance involves yearly removal of dead, dying, broken, diseased or otherwise failure-prone parts of the tree. This applies to all trees including palms. The average Queen palm, for example, has seed pods that can weigh up to 30 pounds and fall from a height of 50 feet. They can cause some very serious property damage.

Can you talk about some of the most common disaster recovery services that Florida homeowners need after a storm?

After a storm, many homeowners with unmaintained trees end up having to replace their roofs, mailboxes, driveways, etc. I have had my crew do an emergency job where we pulled a large oak tree out of somebody's destroyed home. I have seen cars and countless other property destroyed by large branches. My suggestion is to take care of any failure-prone trees before they have a chance to do real damage.

Say that hurricane season is already here. Do you have any advice for people who live on or near a property with a lot of trees that haven't been maintained?

If the trees are close to something valuable (home, cars, sidewalks) get them assessed and maintained immediately. Even in hurricane season these issues can be addressed. Once a hurricane actually hits your area, it is usually too late.

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