Timely tip: Trim those trees

Homeowners can avoid property damage and maybe even power outages by getting rid of dead or diseased trees or branches. But they may need a permit first.

Published May 29, 2005

Christmas isn't the only time to trim trees.

"In terms of preventing damage to your home and improving our ability to restore power, it's critical that everybody properly maintain and trim their trees prior to hurricane season," said Michelle Baker, emergency management director of Pasco County.

Uprooted trees, downed limbs and the cleanup of debris were major and costly problems after last summer's four hurricanes.

Trying to mitigate property damage should be a priority for homeowners, said Citrus County emergency management director Jim Soukup.

"Look at your trees," he said. "If there's any rotten limbs, get rid of them immediately."

Thomas Leto, the emergency management director in Hernando County, recently got rid of a dead tree on his property.

He was worried that any "wind event" - hurricane, tornado, thunderstorm - would bring the tree crashing down onto his home.

"Get the trees trimmed," Leto said. "Do it before the start of the season, and do it each year. I would make the investment because it's money well spent."

That strategy may be fine in rural Citrus and Hernando counties, but in cities such as Tampa and St. Petersburg, homeowners may have to get permits to trim or cut down trees, said Larry Gispert, director of Hillsborough County Emergency Management.

"Just don't go out and rent a chain saw and start hacking away at your 100-year-old tree," he said.

Call city building officials, he suggested. And if the tree is near a power line, call the people at your power company. Sometimes, they will trim those trees for you or suggest a licensed tree-trimming contractor whom you can call. Most power companies, such as Progress Energy, have a three-year tree-trimming schedule, in which arborists and licensed trimmers shave foliage and limbs away from power lines.

Still, homeowners can help themselves.

"Our recommendation is that people keep the overhang of trees away from the home," said Gary Vickers, director of Pinellas County Emergency Management. "Obviously if they break and fall, they're going to come down over the roof."