Trees are very important assets that provide a long list of advantages for homeowners. So when you wake up after a heavy storm to find your favorite old tree laying on its side, it can be quite devastating. When this happens, the root damage is usually too extensive to save the tree. You may be asking yourself how wind alone can yank a tree right out from the ground. The answer is windthrow.
Continue reading to learn how strong wind must be in order to uproot a large tree, and what you should do if it ever happens on your property.
When a tree is pulled out from the ground by heavy gusts of wind, it is referred to as windthrow. And it happens to be the number one cause of uprooted trees. To gauge an idea of just how strong wind must be in order to accomplish such a feat, take note that tornadoes and hurricanes often produce winds reaching 75 mph or more.
For wind to actually pull a tree out from the ground, wind speeds must meet or exceed these speeds. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), softwood trees will uproot in winds between 73 and 112 mph. On the Enhanced F Scale, this is equivalent to an F-0 or F-1 storm. F-3 category storms and higher are more likely to snap a tree in half, rather than pull it out of the ground from its roots.
Factors That Influence Windthrow
Although these are the speeds at which wind can uproot a tree, there are other factors that can influence windthrow. Soil conditions can make a tree more susceptible to windthrow, allowing it to be pulled out of the ground at much lower wind speeds. Sandy soils, soft soils, and waterlogged soils fit this description. Winds as little as 7 to 30 mph can potentially uproot a tree in sandy or waterlogged soil.
Similarly, distressed or poor quality root systems can also render a tree more susceptible to windthrow. Tree species can also have an effect. Tree with heavier crowns, such as conifers, are easier uprooted than “windfirm” (wind-resistant) trees like California Black Oaks. Another factor at play is topography. Certain locations will make a tree more vulnerable to being uprooted, like cliffs, peaks, flatlands, or summits.