Lightning Protection

Why does lightning occur?

When a cloud forms, all the particles such as ice and water are rubbing against each other. These form positive and negative charges.  The negative charges sink to the bottom of the cloud and the positive charges rise to the top of the cloud. In order to balance these out again, a lightning bolt is created!

Why does lightning strike trees?

Two things are important to this question. 1) Lightning always takes the path of least resistance.  2) Moisture is a great conductor for lightning.

A tree is full of water, especially during a storm. If a tree has a hollow inside, it will have water buildup. Sap has water in it. And the rain will soak the bark in a storm.  Since lightning takes the path of least resistance, and moisture is a good conductor, trees are just asking to be struck as they are usually the tallest thing in an area (path of least resistance).

What happens when a tree is struck by lightning?

The damage from a lightning strike varies from nothing happening at all to fatal. The moisture content in a tree determines this. If a tree has a large hollow down the center of a tree that is connected to water on the outside of the tree, the tree will likely explode like a stick of dynamite. If a tree has been barely soaked by the storm, the lightning may just hover over the outside of the bark and minimal or no damage will occur.

Most often, we see a strip of bark taken away vertically or in a spiral down the tree. This happens because the tree has been soaked enough and the lightning travels just underneath the bark.

How to prevent a tree from being struck by lightning?

Tree Shepherds can put a copper wire down the tree so that the wire becomes the path of least resistance to the ground. Our professional climbers secure it at a distance from the tree so the tree doesn’t grow over it.

Should I have my tree protected from lightning?

Almost all trees are at some level of risk of being struck by lightning. We usually recommend lightning protection based on three things. 1) What is the elevation of the tree within a ½ mile radius? 2) How old and valuable is the tree? 3) Has the tree been struck before?

We ask the elevation question because if the tree is at the highest elevation, the tree is the path of least resistance in that area. The more important question is the second one. If the tree is young and not very tall or valuable, we wouldn’t recommend it. But a 100+ year old tree is irreplaceable and it would be worth considering lightning protection.

If a tree has been struck before, we would highly recommend lightning protection. The old saying that lightning never strikes in the same place twice is a myth, and the opposite is probably true. If a tree has been struck before, then the tree is likely the path of least resistance in the area and is likely to be struck again. This of course, depends on how much damage occurs from the first lightning strike.

Can I save my tree if it has been struck by lightning?

The best treatments we can offer are things to help the tree heal the damage itself. These include pruning, fertilization, and insect/disease protection to prevent these from entering the fresh wound.

However, it’s more common for a tree to survive a lightning strike than not. Our arborists can assess the damage and let you know the chances of your tree surviving on its own. If you have a relationship with an arborist and your tree is struck by lightning, our arborists will stop by to give you an assessment and on-going care recommendations.

Contact Tree Shepherds today to schedule an appointment with the Arborist.




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Areas We Serve

We are based in Highland Village, Texas and primarily serve Denton County and the North DFW areas: Argyle, Bartonville, Carrollton, Copper Canyon, Corinth, Denton, Double Oak, Farmers Branch, Flower Mound, Frisco, Justin, Krum, Lake Dallas, Lewisville, Ponder, Roanoke, Sanger, Shady Shores, and The Colony

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