Submitted by Public Risk Underwriters of Florida, Inc. – Safety & Risk Management Department
With the recent increase of hurricane activity, serious consideration should be given to hurricane-scaping landscaping. Hurricane-scaping is a process of taking the necessary steps to modify your landscaping to reduce storm damage.
The process consists of selecting storm wise trees, addressing inland flooding/storm surge exposures to your landscaping as well as providing ongoing landscape maintenance.
Post storm analysis indicates that native trees/shrubs that are even branched with low centers of gravity and have deep root systems fare better in hurricane-force winds.
Species like sea grapes and gumbo limbo quickly shed their leaves in hurricane-force winds, but the structures of these even-branched trees tend to remain intact, and the foliage quickly re-grows. Native palms such as coconut, cabbage and thatch palms are also highly adapted to high winds and are known to survive unscathed.
When planting trees, consider their eventual size/impact to avoid future conflicts with sidewalks, driveways, buildings, fences and power lines.
Mature tree height is extremely important to consider under power lines. When trees are allowed to grow into power lines, they pose a year-round maintenance issue for the power company and increase the chances that power will be interrupted after a storm.
Flood tolerance and local storm-surge potential should also be taken into consideration. If areas are prone to inland flooding, select landscaping that is flood tolerant.
For coastal landscaping you need to consider the possibility of a storm surge that could bring substantial amounts of salt water inland. Selection of salt-tolerant species such as coconut palms, sea grape and gumbo limbo can be used to minimize post-storm damage.
As part of an overall landscape maintenance plan pre/post storm preparation activities are equally important. It is always recommended to work with a Certified Arborist in planning for hurricane season to determine what needs to be completed pre/ post hurricane as well as what type of tree root systems are less damaging to sidewalks/driveways.
In advance of hurricane season brown fronds and seed pods on palms should be removed along with coconuts and harvest items, i.e., fruits, which are mature enough to pick. In addition, provide for the staking of small trees to secure them against heavy winds.
After a hurricane, take time to properly access landscaping damage. Secure and/or remove hazards and consider delaying the pruning and removal of trees and shrubs for as long as possible.
The damage to the landscaping may look severe initially, but wind-whipped trees and shrubs can improve in appearance in a matter of months.
When dealing with flooded areas, check the drainage system to remove any blockage to assist in providing further damage to water-intolerant species.
Please refer to the Storm-Wise Landscaping table below to help you learn more about landscaping that is better suited to survive hurricanes: