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Is Rain More Damaging to Trees than Wind During a Hurricane?

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When many people think of hurricane damage, they naturally envision powerful winds knocking down trees and buildings. But is rain more destructive than wind?

A recent study published in Scientific Reports analyzed the damage caused by hurricanes Maria and Irma in 2017. These storms combined ended up knocking over about a quarter of the trees in Puerto Rico, and scientists believe that rain—not wind—was the primary cause.

Rain is a Greater Factor than Wind

The study was performed by a team from Columbia University in New York. Researchers initially thought that high winds would be to blame for most of the deforestation in Puerto Rico. However, they ultimately identified rain as the greater risk factor, coming in behind only the average canopy height of the trees.

This is not good news. With climate change, our storms are expected to become wetter. Even if winds do not increase in the storms ahead, the increase in expected rainfall could be even more damaging.

Scientists noted that Irma was an incredibly powerful storm, much like Dorian. However, Irma stayed offshore, which meant that its strongest winds did not hit the island. However, when Maria struck Puerto Rica a mere two weeks later, it dropped a stunning 5 feet of rain in a 48-hour period in many spots. After this storm, around 10.4 billion tons of tree biomass fall in the forest floor on the island.

The study suggests that heavy rains have as much damage on the natural ecosystem as they do on built structures, like your home or grocery store. Heavy rains saturate the soil, making it weaker. Winds can then push over trees that otherwise would not fall. Rain also increases the weight of the roots of the tree, as well as the weight of the canopy. Many trees will snap at the trunk due to the strain put on them.

Are You Fully Prepared?

With global temperatures increasing, the hurricanes of the future will probably pull in more water than those of the past decade. This means that they will dump a greater amount of water on our communities—around 20% more, which is a fair estimate. Any trees located in Volusia County are in danger of falling and striking your home, vehicles, or other property.

To prepare, homeowners should do more than check for leaks and cracks in the roof and the walls. They should also check the trees on their property. Ironically, trees on a slope might be better able to withstand a hurricane, since the water will run away from the tree, reducing the odds of a tree falling. Some homeowners might want to be proactive and actually remove trees that pose a risk of crashing down.

Has a Storm Damaged Your Home? We Can Help

At Bundza & Rodriguez, P.A., our Daytona Beach hurricane insurance claims lawyers have helped many homeowners make insurance claims for property damage, especially after a hurricane. If you have suffered damage in a storm, contact us today to schedule a free consultation. You can call to speak with one of our lawyers.

Resource:

phys.org/news/2020-03-massive-toppling-trees-hurricane-maria.html

https://www.daytonalawyers.com/how-to-hurricane-proof-your-basement/

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