MSU professor assessing the toll of December's ice storm on trees

Feb 11, 2014

The late December ice storm that knocked out power to more than half a million Michigan utility customers also damaged many of the state’s trees.

A preliminary study being released today takes a look at that damage.

Professor Frank Telewski was busy Monday, crunching numbers for his presentation today to a conference of state arborists.

Telewski is the curator of MSU’s W.J. Beal Botanical Garden and Campus Arboretum.

Telewski and a couple student assistants have been looking at 9,600 trees on the East Lansing campus. Telewski says about 5% of the trees on MSU’s north campus were damaged by the unusually heavy ice that coated tree branches during the Dec. 22 storm. He says much of the damage is quite serious.

“Some of those large broken-off branches would be more susceptible wounds for possible infections and decay fungi may be coming in,” says Telewski. 

Telewski says it will be years before the full extent of the damage to individual trees will be clear.

“I would say probably at least five years to really see something taking place,” says Telewski. “It depends on how much reserve the tree has and how much canopy it has lost.”

Telewski says the percentage of damaged trees could be higher in Shiawassee and Genesee counties. That’s where the ice storm was particularly intense.

The MSU study found trees that are native to Michigan appear to have fared better than trees that are not native, and thus not accustomed to Michigan winters.