The good news: Your tree didn’t fall. The bad: It still could

Matthew left this tree toppled at Tabby Walk on Hilton Head Island.
Matthew left this tree toppled at Tabby Walk on Hilton Head Island. The Island Packet/ The Beaufort Gazette

The damage may already be done for trees that didn’t fall during Hurricane Matthew.

“I always hate to give the ‘it depends’ answer,” said University of South Carolina geography professor John Kupfer, “(but) just because the storm is done, doesn’t mean the tree won’t come down.”

Clemson University professor William Conner added that it may be useful to get follow-up inspections done by tree experts.

“There’s a lot of ifs,” he said. “There’s always a question after a storm like that.”

Kupfer said the soil around the tree could weaken even further during the winter if the roots were loosened enough by a storm.

“If you get rain and the soil becomes liquidized, then there’s the chance, especially if you have moderate to high winds,” Kupfer said.

“More deeply rooted species are less likely to fall in the long term,” he added. “Bigger trees tend to be more top-heavy. They might have bigger root systems, but they’re going to be more prone to topple over.”

Sonya Reiselt, of Southern Tree Services of Beaufort, said those trees may not be sturdy after the storm.

“What appears to be OK from a visible standpoint, there might be other unforeseen things internally,” she said.

Kupfer said — based on his research of trees impacted by Hurricane Katrina — a tree’s height and the slope of the soil have a role in its stability.

He said people should consider what building or structure would be damaged if the tree fell later when considering whether to call tree experts down the road.

“People should have things checked to be on the safe, conservative side,” he suggested.

Daniel Salazar: @imdanielsalazar,