How To Save Your Trees During An Ice Storm

With the threat of ice storms in the Sioux Falls region, here are some things to remember when dealing with ice on your trees. There is little anyone can do during the storm (other than pray). But there are things that can be done before, during, and after the storm to help your trees survive.


The best medicine for having trees survive an ice storm is prevention. Ice storms will expose trees with weak branch attachments, co-dominant trunks, and other “defects.” A qualified arborist can work to correct or mitigate those defects with a pruning program or  structural tree risk assessment. A tree with a strong central leader or strong branch attachments will hold up far better in an ice storm. This may not help for an imminent storm, but planing now can save a lot before the next storm.


During the ice storm event and until the ice melts, there is nothing that you should be doing. Do not try and knock off the ice as this will likely cause the limb to break from the shock. Trees are designed to stretch and bend. Any quick shocks or instant bends will cause them to break far easier than if they bend slowly. Do not spray more water on the trees to try and melt the ice and or snow weighing them down. Also, do not try and prop up any bending or sagging limbs during the storm. Just touching them with the weight of the ice could cause them to break. Your best option is to sit on your hands and wait for the storm to be done. Let the ice to melt off the trees before you start cleaning up any damage that happened.


With any weather events there will eventually be tree damage depending on the severity. Wait until after the ice has melted to begin working on trees. Additionally, any ice that is still on the trees while working on them can cause further damage from the weight of the ice.

Avoid leaving broken limbs in your trees. All broken or torn parts of the tree should be pruned back to a branch union or ‘crotch’. That will promote sealing off the wound by the tree and reduce any future threat of decay or excessive sprouting.

If you are hiring an arborists they should be familiar with storm restoration pruning and retrenchment pruning. These are industry standard definitions that will be the best options for the tree to repair and  recover from the damage. Finally, visually inspect all trees for any structural cracks or damage that could result in future tree failure. It may not be obvious to the untrained eye (especially large mature trees near homes or other high target areas). Consider hiring a qualified arborist to evaluate the condition of your trees after a damaging storm.


Beware of people posing as arborists to do the work for a quick buck after damaging storms. Hire only reputable businesses that have the Sioux Falls license, have proof of insurance to provide before they start work on your property, and wear helmets and other safety gear while working. Also, avoid paying up front for any work and be wary of people knocking on your door offering their services.

For more information head to our website: or email your questions

Sam Kezar, ISA Board Certified Master Arborist (MW 4503B)