It can be a terrifying experience for any household. With a massive explosion of noise, a tree that has been a part of your home’s landscape for years is suddenly severely damaged, possibly irreparably. Your first instinct may be to try to take matters into your own hands. But knowing what to do after your tree gets struck by lightning is imperative not only for the health of the tree but for your own safety and that of your property.
Even though the initial blast may be startling, resist the urge to rush out immediately to check the damage. Beyond the danger of the storm and the possibility of tree limbs falling on you, there is the possibility of the area retaining an electric charge. There is also the possibility of indirect lightning strikes—when lightning strikes an object and nearby objects get shocked as well. Let a little time pass, then leave the house to check the damage.
Assess the Damage
Although lightning strikes are extremely powerful, they do not necessarily guarantee the death of a tree. In many instances, the intense heat of the lightning blast instantly turns the water in a tree to gas, often causing the tree to explode. However, if the tree bark is soaked with water from the rain, it is possible for the lightning to focus on the external water, striking it and the ground, leaving the rest of the tree unharmed. Other times, a mature tree may remain standing after a lightning strike, but be damaged to such an extent that they die years later.
What you do after your tree gets struck by lightning will depend largely on where the damage occurs. And if you aren’t sure whether the damage done to a tree will prove fatal, you can always consult an arborist.
Choose Response Based on Tree Health
About 50 percent of trees that are struck by lightning will not survive the blast. It’s crucial that trees that are severely damaged or clearly dying are removed as soon as possible. Otherwise, they may cause damage to the property and surrounding trees. You will want to seek professional help for this since severely damaged trees pose several threats through splintered, jagged pieces and falling limbs.
Even if a tree has survived a lightning strike, in most cases the lighting has severely stressed it. Quick aid for a tree is needed to help it recover. Begin by arranging for broken or damaged branches and limbs to be pruned; this will minimize the wound and promote faster healing. Watering and fertilizing a tree are also key to help restore the evaporated moisture from the lightning strike. Trees damaged by lightning are also more prone to infestation and infection, so taking extra precautions against these hazards with oils and wraps will give a tree the best chance to bounce back from its injury.