White Birch (Betula papyrifera) after ice stormBy Michael Rosen, President, Tree Canada

In 1998 I lived with my then young family through the Great Ice Storm without electricity in the Gatineau Hills of Québec for 12 days. With 80 mm of ice coating the trees in a huge swath throughout eastern Ontario, southern Québec and New Brunswick (and the US!) the storm paralyzed homeowners and businesses for up to 3 weeks – and this was with temperatures plunging to -20C! I have fond memories of keeping my wood stove and decorative fireplace roaring hot during that time (to an inside temp of a toasty 15oC) , of my 5-year old son running around our house blowing out candles (complete with dripping wax on mirrors) and me cooking stir fry on a Coleman stove in the kitchen…My French improved greatly as I added “le verglas” (ice storm) and “la génératrice” (generator) to my vocabulary…..I looked at my cedar hedge lying prone on the ground, of a young white pine stripped of 60% of its branches and of my red maple branches lying in my swimming pool thinking there was no hope….But I was wrong! “Because the trees came back – they came back the very next day…..”.

Tree Canada led a program (called “Operation ReLeaf”) to educate people on what to do with their trees post ice storm as well as offered funds to communities to help repair and clean up the ice storm damage.

I helped write two Extension Notes at the time with basic tips for residents and rural landowners on dealing with ice damaged trees Here are some of the important messages:

  • Trees are extremely important to the environmental health of our communities – we need trees to give us clean air and water, beauty, and many other benefits
  • Most trees in eastern North America have evolved with ice storms  – people should not be hasty in removing trees as most trees will recover from the damage caused by the ice
  • If advice is needed on pruning or removal, rely on the professionals (as in an experienced ISA arborist) and not a “Joe Chainsaw” who goes door-to-door scaring residents to remove their trees (if the guy at the door says he’s never heard of the ISA, you should pack him running)
  • Working on ice coated trees can be very hazardous – again, rely on professionals to do this work
  • Well-maintained trees which have been regularly pruned stand a much greater chance of withstanding the effects of ice storms – encourage your communities and residents to undertake an inventory, assessment and a regular pruning of their trees

So if you’ve been affected by the ravages of ice don’t worry, be happy but call in the pros if you have to!