Trees pose uprooting danger in the event of major storms

The message about Hurricane Laura to communities along the upper Texas coast and inland southeast Texas has been clear: Expect this to be a high wind event.

Laura is forecast to make landfall as a major Category 3 hurricane, which is classified with sustained wind speeds of at least 111 mph.

A Tropical Storm Warning that covers most of Harris County suggests diminishing wind speeds.

But any level of wind, whether from a tropical storm or a catastrophic hurricane, poses the risk of uprooted trees and downed power lines, causing further property damage to homes and buildings.

To put it into further historical context, Hurricane Ike, which blew into the region as a Category 2 storm in 2008, caused widespread damage to Houston.

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When it comes to hurricanes, one of the biggest questions is what category it will be. Hurricanes are categorized using the Saffir-Simpson scale, which is based on sustained wind speed.


It's an experience that Jeffry Evans of the National Weather Service has heard repeated by people living in storm zones.

"Every storm survey I do, I run into folks who say, 'I wish I would have listened. I wish I would have left. That was the scariest thing I've ever lived through,'" Evans said. "I urge folks (not to) be that person that we talk to afterward who say, 'I survived but it scared the living daylights out of me.'"

Evans added he expects to see strong, potentially hurricane-force winds inland up to 100 miles from the coast, which speaks to the fast movement of Laura.

"A hurricane is not like a tornado where it's a rapid change and there's a vertical motion," Evans explained about the potential wind damage. "It's a little bit more direct and straight line, and it's more of a gradual change. Some of the trees can handle that for a while, but just over time, they just give. They can only take that stress for so long."

Louis Flory works as a professional tree trimmer for Ability Trees. From his experience, he said wind gusts of at least 45 mph could cause damage.
"If you get a good gusty wind - winds from 45 to 60 mph - it's going to cause branches to be broken. It's going to cause the tree to be busted up, probably uprooted, and blow the tree over," Flory said.

As of Tuesday - the day before Laura's expected arrival, Flory said it's likely too late to take preventative measures to trim trees. And all it takes is a good gust.

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