CANOPY BLOG

How to protect your trees during a major rainstorm

By Canopy Team on January 12, 2023

A large fallen tree in a park

Mitchell Park, Palo Alto - this Italian stone pine tree fell due to heavy rainstorms in January 2023.

When it rains, it pours! As the rainstorms and heavy wind continue to bombard the Bay Area, it’s a good time to brush up on your emergency preparedness. Extreme weather, such as these recent storms, may only increase in the future due to climate change, and it’s important to protect our valuable urban trees.

Before a storm: look for warning signs.

This article Davey and this guide from New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation are good primers on what to look for. Cracks in the soil or a leaning trunk with upraised soil near the base can be signs that a tree’s roots are unstable.

According to arborist Kurt Stegen, conifers like Redwoods, Pine, and Cypress can be especially vulnerable since their needles can hold extra water, making their evergreen canopies extra top-heavy.

Multi-trunk trees with weak attachments (see examples in the New York guide) are also at risk of failure.

If needed, get an expert (and objective) assessment.

If there’s a tree on your property that concerns you, it’s a good idea to have a consulting arborist take a look and assess the risk. Consulting arborists have no financial incentive to recommend pruning or removing your tree, so you can feel confident they’re giving you their best advice.

You can never be 100 percent sure a tree won’t cause damage in a storm, but hiring a professional to inspect the tree should give you peace of mind.

Consult Canopy’s arborist list for a searchable list of local certified professionals.

During a storm: know who to call for tree emergencies.

During a big storm, it’s inevitable that some weakened trees will not survive. For downed trees on your private property, check Canopy’s arborist list, and search for companies that provide “Emergency Tree Services” (under “Other Services”).

Here are local resources to help you weather the storm. Remember, in case of a serious emergency, like a tree falling on your house or a downed power line, call 911.

In Palo Alto:

  • For downed street trees (or any public tree): call Public Works at 650-496-6974 on weekdays from 7:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. or 650-329-2413 after hours and on weekends.
  • For power outages and electrical problems: call Palo Alto Utilities Electric Operations at 650-496-6914. Find other useful numbers on Palo Alto Utility’s outages page
  • For news on current conditions, visit the city’s Storm Updates or Storm FAQs webpages.

In East Palo Alto:

In Mountain View:

  • To report locations of flooding or downed trees and limbs, please call and leave a message with the City of Mountain View’s Public Works Department at 650-903-6329.
  • For other storm preparedness tips, visit MountainView.gov/depts/pw/flood_protection.asp.

In Menlo Park:

  • For blocked storm drains, sinkholes, landslides, and fallen trees, call 650-330-6780 from 7:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m on weekdays and 650-330-6300 on weekends and after hours.
  • For Storm Preparedness resources, visit menlopark.gov.

Emergency preparedness resources are also available through the County of San Mateo and County of Santa Clara.

After a storm: check your trees for damage.

This article from Arbor Day Foundation provides good tips for providing “first aid” to your tree after a storm. But be safe! If your tree has sustained significant damage, it’s probably time to call an arborist who can assess whether the tree will recover, or if it’s time to remove it before it becomes a hazard.

Stay informed with Canopy

Once the immediate danger of a tree emergency passes, look to Canopy as a hub of urban forestry education and resources for residents of the Midpeninsula.

You can find the below resources and more on our website.

  • Canopy’s Tree Library: use our tree selection tool to ensure you’re planting the right trees for your yard, including native and climate-appropriate species.
  • Canopy’s online Arborist list: consult this list of consulting arborists and tree care companies for preventative, diagnostic, and corrective tree care services to maintain the health of your trees.
  • Subscribe to Canopy’s mailing list to stay updated on the latest news on the Midpeninsula’s urban forest.

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