It’s been an especially wet and cold winter in the Greater Seattle Area this year. Plenty of snow and rain which may be affecting the trees on your property little by little, even in the dormant season.

Surprised by snow?

There’s usually some snow in the northern & eastern parts of Greater Seattle each year. But this year’s snowfall has been significant. And it’s also reached into central Seattle this year.

Novelty that it is, it’s also toppled many trees in the area, like this one from the Arbor Heights district near West Seattle.


This tree came down due not only to the snowfall, but also the wind that roared through the area during early February.

The owners of this flowering plum were extremely disappointed, having enjoyed this beauty in their backyard for years.

We’re grateful for the picture, but couldn’t tell from it of any other reasons, snow and wind aside, as to why this tree might’ve been blown over.

For instance, we’d take a look at the root system.

Shallowness of a root system may make a tree more susceptible to storm damage. A tree with roots that don’t go deep into the soil won’t have as much “grip” into the earth as the trees with roots that do.

Trees have different ways of rooting. Some types have roots that travel deep into the earth while other types have systems that spread more horizontally and stay closer to the surface of the soil, roots only 18” – 24” underground.

We remove many trees that are simply uprooted in storms of all kinds; wind, snow, rain and the combinations of all three. Many of the trees far longer and heavier than the poor plum tree pictured above.

One other thing we’d look at would be the health of the tree. We’d look for cracks in the trunk, signs of brittleness or dryness that would signal decay or disease. And, we’d ask the owners if the tree had been leaning prior to the storm.

Before we move on to another example, let’s take care of one misperception about snow.


It’s not the depth, it’s the weight

A dry, fluffy, powdery snow isn’t as likely to cause the damage that a wet, sleety snow. For snow, on branches (& roofs too) it’s the weight of the snow that counts.

Fun fact:

Did you know that six inches of wet snow is equal to the weight of about 38 inches of dry snow?

That’s a huge difference! If you’d like to test the theory, try moving a few shovelfuls of each kind and see.


Fresh, dry, fluffy snow on a lilac branch in West Seattle.

The heaviest snow we’ve had this winter, so far, was early in February. And it started out dry and came with a lot of wind. A couple of days later, it was still cold and rain came in. So, that meant ice and heavier snow.

More trees came down, many of which were uprooted completely since the ground was so saturated and the wind speeds so high.


Speaking of saturated ground

The following image shows a tree that came down when the ground was so soaked by the rain. Roots became loose and the wind was just high enough to take the tree clear out of the ground. This happened in February, no snow required.



What about wind?

Branches can also be snapped off of trees in high winds. It can get really dangerous to be physically out in a storm in high winds and wet weather. Example below of broken branches, tree damage and the temporarily impassable roadway in California after one of the heavy rains a couple of weeks ago.


It’s amazing what can happen outside. Wind, rain, snow and any combination of those three.

A few things for you to keep an eye on this winter regarding your trees:

  • Look for any cracks or splits in the trunks of the trees on your property.
  • Identify whether you can see the roots of your trees around the trunk (get an idea of how shallow a tree’s root system might be)
  • Note whether your trees are beginning to lean to one side or if any soil has shifted around the tree base.
  • And if you have trees that have already begun to lean to one side, see whether or not they are leaning more after each storm

If you have questions, we’d love to be your resource and answer them for you.

If you or your neighbors experience tree damage, we can also be your resource to remove those trees and large branches from the property as well.