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February 4, 2009

Trees: The root of the problem?

There’s not much science behind how much ice a power line will hold before it falls. That’s because lines come in all different shapes, sizes and gauges, so there’s no standard — when ice like this comes, you just hope for the best.

According to E.ON. U.S.’s Keith McBride and Darryl Evans, whom LEO Weekly found fixing downed lines at the corner of Norris Place and Eastern Parkway on Friday, it depends more on the age and condition of the line than anything.

And, as we know, power lines seem to suffer most when massive old-growth trees fall under the weight of a thick layer of ice and tear them down, off, out — generally do them serious harm. There were 12,000-plus downed lines reported between last Tuesday and this one.

Falling trees have been more rare than you might expect, says Chris O’Bryan, owner and operator of Limbwalker Tree Service Inc. His company is pruning damaged and broken ends off trees that have drooped or cracked under the weight of the ice.

“An ice storm is peculiar because, first of all, nothing you can do pruning-wise can prevent the damage, and the damage is related to the amount of surface area on the trees,” O’Bryan says.

LG&E regularly trims trees to keep branches off power lines. However, spokesman Chip Keeling says, there’s really no way to prepare for damage this extensive.

As for any lessons learned from the storm, O’Bryan says he hopes people won’t make hasty decisions about chopping down trees. “The more times people pay out costs for their trees, the more likely they are to see their trees as a liability rather than an asset,” he says.  

Tree damage to wires

By G-townReader
About 7 years ago I planted a Redbud tree that quickly grew larger than I expected. Part of its canopy insists on spreading out over my own overhead telephone line. So, at least twice a year I haul out my pole pruner and whack off any branches that I think could whip in the wind or bend under ice, causing stress on that overhead wire. I keep my phone service, but the price is that such pruning actually stimulates additional growth, and therefore more pruning - and a somewhat oddly shaped tree. And when the day comes that both the tree and I are too old to keep up this regimen - the tree will have to come down.