Global warming could mean a bad storm season

  • Large stands of bamboo are likely the safest place to be if caught outdoors in a violent windstorm. This guadua bamboo grove in rural Colombia gives protection from local storms when sturdy structures are not available. (Voltaire Moise/Courtesy Photo)

It is time to worry about summer storms. When it comes to hurricanes, there is an old sailor’s saying, “June, too soon, July, standby, August, a must, September, remember, October, all over, but November, still remember” The hurricane season is upon us in Hawaii and it’s time to take precautions in the garden. Now that we are traveling the jungles of Colombia in South America, and we are actually in an equatorial zone that is considered free of tropical cyclones, typhoons or hurricanes. The forests are very ancient with trees reaching gigantic proportions of 150 feet and more. The understory is rich with palms, ferns and a vast number of species some of which have not even been named. The biggest threat to these magnificent forest ecosystems is rapidly expanding timber cutting and agriculture for oil palm plantations.

Meanwhile back home in Hawaii, summer storms are like unwanted company since they often come when they are least expected. One year we have none, the next we have several. It is important to be prepared. Before the storm flag is hoisted, inspect your trees for dead branches that seem to be ready to fall. Also, look for dead branches that are firm but brittle. A gust of hurricane-force wind can snap an arm-size branch from a tree and send it at missile speed through a picture window.

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A low-hanging branch over a roof can wreak havoc. Powerful winds can turn the limb into a tool of destruction. This tool can remove shingles as easily as a fish can remove scales. Removing dead and out of place limbs is a good idea even if there is no storm.

Fan-like fungus growing on the side of a tree trunk indicates rotten spots that need attention. A hole made by poor pruning, damage from earlier storms, or the gouge of an auto bumper can start rotten spots. Remove decayed trees that are too weak to hold up under the strain of a storm. This action will save you grief later.

Palm fronds are wicked to deal with if propelled by an 80 miles per hour wind. So, clean away all loose palm leaves at the first hint of a storm. Be careful not to over prune the palms. Over pruning will weaken and even kill them.

If your home is located in an area that might be flooded, you’ll be given ample notice to evacuate hours before the storm reaches your area. Otherwise, there is no safer place than in a well built home.

Soon as the storm is past it is a good idea to inspect the trees and other plants around the house. Usually all the plants will show signs of wind damage. But with a little trimming, propping, resettling of root systems, and fertilizing and watering, nearly all plants that were shaken loose from the ground can be salvaged.

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Many of our tropical trees grow rampant with extensive root systems. That is why we prune to keep them from getting out of hand, but let’s prune the right way. Spring and summer are not the best time for excessive pruning since shade is at a premium during those hot days ahead.

Individuals with home garden questions may call the Master Gardeners at the UH College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources at the Kona and Hilo offices.