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Steps to Take if Your Tree is Struck By Lightning

Lightning is inevitable—about 100 lightning bolts strike the Earth’s surface every second.  It is a fascinating weather phenomenon that is studied by many.  Even if you don’t know much about the science of lightning, you probably have been told from an early age to never stand under a tree when it is lightning.  But why?  Trees are a prime target because they protrude from the Earth’s surface.  Additionally, moisture (sap and water) is a good conductor of electricity.  This combination causes thousands of trees to get struck every year.

If your tree is hit by lightning, there are important steps to take for the safety of those around you, as well as for the preservation of the tree.  First and foremost, you want to remove any loose, broken or hanging branches immediately.  If removal is too difficult, contact a professional tree service, such as Pittsburgh’s Horhut Tree Experts, to do the job.   Once you have removed the immediate signs of danger, you need to inspect and assess the damage.

Inspect the Damage

Lightning damage may go completely unnoticed, so it is important to carefully inspect the affected trees.  There are three possible outcomes for trees hit by lightning:  the tree suffers no damage, it survives with minimal damage or it dies.

Signs of Damage:

  • A crack or slit running down the trunk of the tree
  • Missing chunks of bark
  • Sparse or wilted leaves throughout the tree’s canopy
  • Blackened areas of bark that have been “burned”

After lightning strikes your tree, the future life of your tree is dependent on many factors, including its health, species, age, and location.  Even if your tree did not immediately die from the lightning strike, it may have suffered damage leaving it vulnerable to pests and diseases, which can eventually weaken and kill the tree.

Determine Care or Removal

If your tree has been damaged, begin supplying it with lots of water and add fertilizer to stimulate new growth.  Continually monitor any areas that may lead to disease or pest infiltration. If your damaged tree has survived until the spring season, it will most likely recover.

If the lightning strike has caused extensive damage and repair is not possible, then you will need to have the affected tree removed.

Lightning Protection Systems

To prevent future lightning strikes from harming your Pittsburgh trees, consider installing a lightning protection system.  With this system, heavy-gauge cables are attached to a tree’s branches and grounded away from the tree.  Instead of the bolt traveling down the trunk, possibly exploding the tree or its roots, it travels down the conductor cable away from the tree and into a buried ground rod cable.

Installation of a tree lightning protection system takes a great deal of planning to determine the right amount of cable and location of the buried ground rod cable.  Therefore, it is recommended you hire a professional tree service, such as Horhut Tree Experts, to design the best lightning protection system.

Providing Quality Tree Service and Care in Pittsburgh

At Horhut Tree Experts, our team of professionals and certified master arborists have years of experience inspecting and assessing the damage brought on by lightning.  We are dedicated to providing quality tree service and lightning protection systems to clients in the Pittsburgh and surrounding areas.  If you are in need of expert advice regarding the health of your trees after a lightning strike, call Horhut Tree Experts at 412-855-2703.

Jaime Horhut