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Central Coast arborists busy with 'sudden branch drop'

Bunyon Bros. Tree Service
A tree branch landed on this car's windshield in San Luis Obispo.

Arborists throughout the Central Coast say they have been busy this summer, with calls of massive tree limbs crashing down.

Tree limbs slamming down may be something we think just happens in the winter, especially during a storm. But arborists say the phenomenon of trees dropping their limbs is actually more prevalent during the summer—they call it 'summer branch drop.' 

“When the heat goes up, the cells in the trees, which are full of water, will expand," arborist Jeremy Lowney said. "And that expansion can cause trees to lose their strength.”

Lowney said the limb break often comes without warning, besides a quick sound of the tree crackling before it snaps. 

“Typically the branches that fail are the larger structural branches," Lowney said. "They can weigh from maybe 100 pounds up to thousands of pounds.”

These limbs don’t always fall in convenient places. William VanHorbek, a certified master arborist, said his company has been getting calls in cases where these limbs are causing major wreckage.

“We’ve seen them go through roofs, houses, destroyed decks," VanHorbek said. "We’ve seen some cars that needed some work after a limb falls on them.”

VanHorbek says some of the failures can be prevented if homeowners better maintain their trees.

“If you look at your tree and you cannot see any daylight through it, that means it's very dense," VanHorbek said. " That would be a sign that you need to get some pruning done.”

Lowney said he always recommends trees are checked out by a professional.

“It’s good to ask if a trained arborist is actually doing the work," Lowney said. "Sometimes, tree crews will just hire a bunch of people who may not have an actual background in tree trimming.”

He said most tree service companies provide a free estimate. 

Angel Russell is a former KCBX News reporter who started her career in journalism as a reporter and producer for KREX on Colorado's Western Slope; she later moved to the Central Coast to work for KSBY as weekend anchor and weekday reporter. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, and playing guitar and piano.
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