An early season snowstorm has caused widespread tree mortality and branch breakage throughout the Black Hills. The damage was particularly severe since the leaves were still on the deciduous trees and this helped the snow to accumulate on the branches. Many trees, especially ones that had poorly structured canopies containing competing leaders and acute branch angle, had their limbs snap under the load rather than bend. The focus now is the removal of the trees that have fallen as well as determining whether a damaged tree is even worth saving.
The tree damage in the Rapid City to Spearfish area appears to be even more severe than the damage that occurred following the ice storm last spring in Sioux Falls. While the focus there was ice more than snow, the information in the publication created as a response to that storm still applies and the link is below.
Tree owners faced with pruning or removing mature trees should hire professionals to perform these high-risk tasks. However, not everyone who knocks on your door offering these services is a professional. Hiring local trees companies, even if it means a longer wait, is generally the best option. These companies have been in business for years and will be here long after the storm clean-up is over and the other companies have left. Regardless of who is hired be sure they have the proper insurance (worker compensation and general liability) otherwise you, the tree owner may be financially responsible for paying for any injuries that occur on your property. Also be sure the company has employed arborists certified by either the South Dakota Arborist Association or the International Society of Arboriculture. Certified arborists have passed an exam that covers proper pruning and repair techniques as well as safe work practices. And finally, NEVER let someone start to work on your trees without a written quote – there were a number of tree owners in Sioux Falls last April who let a company do pruning and removals in their yard only to be handed a bill that was 5 to 7 times more expensive than the work would normally be billed. Tree owners should expect to pay extra for the snow storm clean-up due to the complexity and higher risk to this work but have the quote in writing before work begins.