Storm Damage and Health Costs Associated with Urban Forests

Trees for Energy Conservation, The Garden Professors April 21, 2016 Print Friendly and PDF


Large ficus tree storm damage

Storm Damage Recovery

Storms, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, ice, snow, and wind, can cause major damage to the trees and property in a community. Costs of planning for storms, cleaning up and repairing the damage after storms, and planting new trees can be minimized by appropriate species selection and diligent maintenance.


Trees produce pollen that causes allergies for some people. Individuals have the expense of doctor visits and medication. Cities, in an effort to lessen the problems by controlling or regulating the type of trees planted may incur additional management expenses.

Ground Level Ozone Production

All plants, including trees, produce volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from biophysical processes such as photosynthesis.  In general, biogenic VOCs, unlike those industrially manufactured by humans, are considered for the most part benign.  In fact, there is “no evidence to show that biogenic VOC emissions, even at the concentrations measured in heavily forested areas, are toxic” to humans (GHASP, 1999).  Nevertheless, VOCs whether biogenic or anthropogenic combined with nitrous oxides (NOx) and sunlight or heat produce ground level ozone (O3), and at high concentrations, this ground-level ozone is considered an economically and environmentally significant health hazard.  In cities where air quality is a concern, special care should be taken in selecting tree species that are lower in VOC emissions.  Increasing tree canopy could produce an evaporative cooling effect which in turn could slow the rate of reaction producing ground level ozone.

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You can obtain additional information in the article Tips for Checking and Caring for Storm Damaged Trees.

Written By:  Ed Macie, Regional Urban Forester, US Forest Service Southern Region

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.