Arborist says checking tree health can prevent storm damage


HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — A large oak tree fell through the roof of a Huntsville home Sunday morning leaving major damage. Thankfully, nobody was harmed but a local arborist says the situation probably could have been avoided altogether.

The willow oak once stood over 70 ft. tall in Nancy Holbrook’s back yard before heavy winds and rain saturated soil made the perfect combination for a bad situation.

“The next thing I know I heard a big crash and I thought it was just a limb, I didn’t realize it was a whole tree,” says Nancy Holbrook.

Nancy Holbrook woke up Sunday morning to a large oak tree falling on her Huntsville home.

“Walking down the hallway I started tripping over things and then realized… It was raining inside the house… But uh, we were lucky…Me and my dogs,” says Holbrook.

The oak caused major damage to Holbrook’s home. Luckily, the room where Holbrook was sleeping stayed intact.

“It was very close. It almost got my dogs too,” says Holbrook.

Holbrook wants others to be prepared for this kind of situation, saying it can happen to anyone with large trees in their yard.

Lee McBride does risk assessments and tree diagnostics for a living. He often sees severe weather topple trees, but he says sometimes it can be prevented.

“Some of the warning signs that this tree might have given was where the bark is missing, you can see the off color wood and the staining from the organism. At the base of the tree right here you can see a fungal conk that does not look like wood and can be kind of popped off that’s the causal organism for the root failure on this side of the tree,” says board certified master arborist Lee McBride.

He says like most, Ms. Holbrook wouldn’t have known the tree’s roots were failing.

“They would never have realized they had this problem unless they were looking for what we call a sign which is this conk, which is the fruiting body of a well-established organism,” says McBride.

McBride encourages homeowners to check their trees, especially going into severe weather season

“Knowing what a normal tree looks like does take a practiced eye and training but if you see mushrooms for example at the base of the tree or out form the tree you probably want to call a qualified arborist to help you assess that situation,” says McBride.

Saying prevention can be key.

“Prevention is so important and you can save yourself thousands upon thousands of dollars,” says McBride.

The good news here is Ms. Holbrook’s insurance and Serve Pro is taking care of business and planning to rebuild.

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