Do Lightning Strikes Contribute to Tree Failure?

Chris Rippey Chris Rippey
Rippey Arboriculture, LLC
Learn more about Chris Rippey.

On the night of September 7th, 2019, over 1250 lightning strikes were recorded over Western Washington in a span of three and a half hours. Up until this point, I had never responded to a lightning struck tree. This storm presented me with the opportunity to assess four sites with lightning struck trees and two different types of lightning damage. This article will focus on the two most interesting. 

The first tree I assessed was a blue atlas cedar (Cedrus atlanticaGlauca). This tree was 49 inches in diameter and was roughly 85 feet tall. This tree looked like what I thought a typical lightning-struck tree would look like. About a third of the upper canopy and trunk was blown apart, and there was a twisting line of missing bark down the length of the trunk showing the path the lightning took to the ground. Read More "Do Lightning Strikes Contribute to Tree Failure?"

Veteran Black Cottonwood Failure at Lake Washington

Chris Rippey Chris Rippey
Rippey Arboriculture, LLC
Learn more about Chris Rippey.

Slightly before 5:45 pm on December 29th, 2018, the largest single-trunked black cottonwood tree (Populus trichocarpa) in Seattle fell to the ground. This tree was listed in the Arthur Lee Jacobsen book, “Trees of Seattle” as having a 93-inch diameter and being 140 feet tall. This tree was loved by both the local community and by a root decay organism called Armillaria. Read More "Veteran Black Cottonwood Failure at Lake Washington"

Intense Winds January 6 2019 Created Many Tree Failures

Chris Rippey Chris Rippey
Rippey Arboriculture, LLC
Learn more about Chris Rippey.

All images in this article can be clicked to enlarge.

I spent all of January 5th, 2019 in north Seattle pulling a tree out of a house. I arrived on-scene that morning at 4am and worked till 7:30pm that night. I got home to my house in Kent, Washington and passed out only to be awoken at 1:30am by very intense gusting winds. I spend the next hour or so watching transformers blow out and the trees in my neighborhood violently sway back and forth.

I have lived in that house for almost four years and had never experienced stronger winds than those I experienced that night. I seriously thought one of my well cared for trees was going to fall onto my neighbor’s house. My brother who is also an Arborist and lives a couple miles from me was also awoken by the wind. While watching the wind’s effect on the trees in his neighborhood, he saw a large hemlock tree sway back and forth and then fall on a house. It was a pretty intense night.

The morning after the storm my neighborhood was eerily quiet and littered with Douglas fir branches. Our power was out but work was calling so I left my son and wife at home and headed back in. That day I worked until 5pm clearing trees from roads and from on top of various things. It was a big overtime weekend for me. A few days later I sifted through the tree failure reports the Pacific North-West Tree Failure Database (PNWTFD) had received. Read More "Intense Winds January 6 2019 Created Many Tree Failures"

Beloved Bigleaf Maple Failure in City Park

Chris Rippey Chris Rippey
Rippey Arboriculture, LLC
Learn more about Chris Rippey.

On the morning of June 27, 2018, a woman got off a bus and walked over to sit on a nearby bench under a huge tree. She did not often sit on this bench because homeless people were usually encamped around it.  But for whatever reason they were not there today, and she decided to sit for a while as she waited for her next bus. The morning was so beautiful that she decided to remove her headphones and fully take in the morning.

Just then she heard a cracking sound and looked up to see a foot and a half diameter tree stem falling at her from the canopy above. She dove out of the way and the stem came crashing down on the bench she was sitting at. Toady was a lucky day, had several little things been different she or some homeless people could have easily been killed. Read More "Beloved Bigleaf Maple Failure in City Park"

Large Douglas Fir Failure in Lowland Puget Sound

Chris Rippey Chris Rippey
Rippey Arboriculture, LLC
Learn more about Chris Rippey.

Our subject tree; an old growth Pseudotsuga menziesii, Douglas fir.

The following is the first of many articles which I will be writing for this newsletter. These will be stories of tree failures and will include the possible contributing factors involved in these failures. My articles will include data from the Pacific North-West Tree Failure Database (PNWTFD). This article and the information from the PNWTFD is for informational use only. All trees and their locations are individual. A tree risk assessment which meets industry standards should be performed to assess risk related to any tree. Do not ruin the PWNTFD or my good graces in writing this by suing me. Now, let us continue…

This tree failure occurred February 18th, 2018 in the Lowland Puget Sound area of Washington State. During the days leading up to this event, an inch of rain had fallen in the area. In the early morning of the 18th, southwesterly wind gusts were recorded near the tree at 57 mph. Read More "Large Douglas Fir Failure in Lowland Puget Sound"