Trees damaged after Houston-area tornadoes: Should you remove them or save them?

Many people have trees down and damaged in their yards after Tuesday's tornados. But which trees can be saved and which ones should be removed?  

It's best to have an ISA Certified tree trimmer determine whether the tree is still healthy or if branches could come crashing down.

"That's a widow maker basically. Every time I went to clean yesterday, wind was blowing, and I was scared," said homeowner Jenna Zumparelli about a tree branch hanging over her roof.  

Zumparelli is ready to take down some of her trees after a tornado swept through.

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"It's almost 50 years old. His mom planted all these trees," said Zumparelli.

So how do you know which trees can be saved and which can't?  

Jose Garcia with Tree Solutions of Texas showed us the signs of a dying tree.

"A cavity is when a tree starts rotting from the inside, as you can see right here," Garcia showed us on an old tree. "That right here is a weak structure."

He says to look for dry rot.

"Dry rot is when you get a tree that looks like this," he said crumbling part of the tree. And look for tiny holes from pine bark beetles. "They'll get at the tree. The reason the tree is alive, so once that's gone, the tree just starts dying," he showed us, peeling off bark.

Garcia says a big tree in a front yard can be saved. "A good reason is we're not going to take off more than 30% of the tree," said Garcia.

He says branches should be cut at what's called the collar.

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"Cutting this section right here off this branch. That way this branch can heal around that cut and no water will enter that tree," he explained.  

But he says if more than 30% of the foliage is cut off a tree, it will weaken the tree. 

"That regrowth won't be as strong as the original branch that was there before. If you have regrowth and strong winds, it's going to fall all over again," said Garcia.

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Zumparelli says she'll be glad not to have that widow maker hanging over her roof anymore.

"We get storms in that tear them up every time we try to get a way to cut them down. So luckily we can get them cleaned up today," she said.

You can find ISA Certified tree trimmers through this link.

Garcia says most offer free inspections and estimates and you should never have to pay upfront. If a tree trimmer asks for payment first, it could be a scam.