Storm Damage and Natural Disturbance

Forests are dynamic ecosystems shaped by human and natural disturbances. While we may carefully tend and manage our forests to meet our objectives, a storm, fire, pest infestation or other natural disturbance may change the landscape abruptly and cause us to redirect our management decisions.

When a natural disturbance occurs in our forests, we often need or want to take action.

If you have questions about storm damage on your woodlot, contact your County Forester. Download our staff list with contact information here.

Debris Cleanup

The most important message is trees and forests recover from damage, so don’t panic, be safe and seek professional help.

The best advice is a word of caution: Removing large trees or limbs is dangerous. Don’t climb a ladder with a chain saw. Don’t climb into a damaged tree. Never touch any tree near electrical wires. Assess your particular tree situation carefully and watch for safety hazards. Most tree work needs to be done by professional arborists, especially when the work requires climbing or the tree is leaning against another tree or structure.

Stay safe! Seek professional advice before undertaking the job, and use common sense as you work. A few tips:

  • Don't try to clean up storm-damaged trees during high wind conditions.
  • Stay away from downed or sagging power lines until utility crews have arrived and repaired them.
  • Don't work alone.
  • Wear a hard hat and other recommended safety gear.
  • Watch for hanging limbs and leaning trees.
  • Remember that trees and branches may be unstable and pose considerable risk.
  • Contact your insurance company for instructions, and take pictures to document damage for potential claims.

Assess immediate hazards first: Remove dead trees; trees or branches that are leaning; trees with broken or cracked stems; trees with extensive broken roots; and any large, dead, or broken limbs that are still attached to the tree.

Hire an arborist: For homeowners, hire a qualified arborist to get the work done properly and safely. Trained arborists are aware of proper pruning and removal procedures and can reduce the chance of further damage to the tree. Check to see if they are certified and ask for certificates of insurance, including proof of liability for personal and property damage and worker’s compensation. Also, request local references and get more than one estimate.

Prevent additional damage: Later, you may want to prune the damaged trees to improve appearance and reduce additional hazards. If the top has been broken, the tree should be pruned back to a strong lateral branch. Damaged branches should be pruned back to the branch collar.

Don’t forget to look at your trees in the spring and summer: Some damage may not be immediately apparent. Hidden cracks may cause branches to droop when leaves come out in the spring. Stem decay, as well as cracks, may lead to structural loss, causing the tree or large branches to become hazardous. Root damage may not be evident until twigs or branches in the upper crown begin dying after two or three growing seasons.

Hire a forester: If you own large acreage, contact your County Extension Forester or a licensed forester to assess the damage, then salvage the trees if needed. Over time, damaged trees may develop decay and discoloration. As long as it is safe, there is no need to rush. You have more than a year to act before you lose wood to discoloration and decay.

For additional information and assistance, call your local UNH Cooperative Extension County Forester.

Information about damage to individual trees

Information about woodlot damage

If you have any questions about downed wires or removing or pruning trees near downed wires, contact your Utility Company:

  • Public Service of New Hampshire: 800-662-7764
  • Unitil: 800-852-3339
  • New Hampshire Co-op: 800-439-8864
  • National Grid: 800-322-3223

Calls about power outages should be made to utility companies and emergency calls for police, fire or medical assistance should be made to 911.

Here are some other helpful links:

We've drawn our online disaster-information resources from a variety of organizations, including federal and state agencies, the American Red Cross, the World Health Organization, and the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN). If you note gaps or outdated information in the resources we've listed, please let us know.

Notable storms:

  • Hurricane Sandy/ Superstorm Sandy - October 2012
  • Tropical Storm Irene - August 2011
  • February 2010 Wind Storm (Croydon, Harrisville, Orford)
  • December 2008 Ice Storm
  • July 2008 Tornado
  • January 1998 Ice Storm

Disaster Assistance Available From the Farm Service Agency
The Farm Service Agency would like to remind both crop and livestock producers and owners of nonindustrial private forest land that programs are available to assist with disaster related recovery. If your agricultural operation or nonindustrial private forest land has recently experienced severe damage from a storm, flooding, wind, or other natural disaster there may be a FSA program available to provide you with financial and/or technical assistance.