Be Safe During Hurricane Clean Up

Be Safe During Hurricane Clean Up

When there is so much to do in cleaning up after a storm, sometimes we tend to do too much so that it can all get done. Be safe, don’t add to the disaster.

Be careful with that chainsaw! Photo credit: James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Take breaks and rest often. Mistakes happen when people are exhausted.
  • Only lift what you can comfortably handle, lifting with your legs and not your back. Get a buddy to help with heavier objects or wait until a team or equipment can assist.
  • Make sure you are adequately hydrated. Always keep water nearby and take a long drink during your breaks.
  • Protect yourself against biting pests such as mosquitoes with insect repellent.
  • Wear protective gloves, sturdy closed toe shoes and long pants.
  • Have a first-aid kit available for minor injuries.
  • Make sure ladders are stable and locked into position.
  • If you are using any type of power equipment, especially a chainsaw, make sure someone else is around. And protective gear is a must. Read about details in this article.
Stinging Wasps Active After Storms

Stinging Wasps Active After Storms

As Hurricane Michael was barreling through the Panhandle region, wasp populations were at their highest of the year.  Winds and flooding destroyed many of the nests of paper wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets and now wasps may be aggressive as they defend themselves or remnants of their nests.   All are capable of multiple stings that are very painful. It is very likely that you will encounter stinging wasps as they scavenge for food and water, as well as seek shelter among debris and exposed trash.

Paper wasp

Many people are stung by paper wasps after storms. They are not attracted to traps.

Here are a few pointers to help deal with stinging wasps.

  • Try not to swat at wasps flying around or landing on you. You may be less likely to receive a sting if you can flick them off.
  • Some wasps are attracted to the sap from broken or recently cut trees. Look before you reach. Wear gloves and other protective clothing when moving debris in case you disturb foraging or nesting activities.
  • Wasps are also attracted to sugars and water. Try your best to keep food and drink cans covered. Completely close garbage containers or bags that contain food debris.
  • Repellents are not effective against wasps.  There are pesticides labeled to spray on smaller paper wasp nests if you find one in a spot close to people’s activity.  These are usually aerosol pyrethroids or pyrethrins.  Make sure you read the label carefully and use the product as directed.
  • Do not use non labeled products like gasoline to manage wasps.  This is not only illegal but can be dangerous to yourself and the environment.
  • There are traps for yellowjackets that you may purchase or make.  These only manage those wasps flying around, not any remaining in a ground nest.

Here is a Do It Yourself Yellowjacket trap from UF IFAS Extension.

  • Cut the top 1/3 off your 2 liter bottle so that you have 2 pieces.
  • Add a bait (fermenting fruit or beer) to the bottom of the plastic bottle.
  • Invert the top portion of the bottle into the base, forming a funnel.
  • Hang or place traps so they are about 4 to 5 feet above the ground. For safety, place them away from people.
Yellowjacket trap

A homemade trap to catch yellowjackets. Photo by Alison Zulyniak

 

Storm Damaged Landscapes

Storm Damaged Landscapes

Partly uprooted tree from hurricane. Photo credit: Larry Williams

Hurricane damaged plants should be cared for as soon as possible. Partially uprooted small trees and shrubs should be securely staked in their original positions. Until plants are reset, protect exposed roots and prevent drying. Soil, moist burlap sacks or moist sphagnum moss can be put on exposed roots. Remove damaged roots so the tree can be reset at ground level.

 

Once reset, trees should be secured. Two or three, four-foot long, 2 x 2 inch wood stakes can usually anchor trees with trunk diameters less than two inches. Stakes should be placed about a foot outside root ball and inserted eighteen inches into soil. Secure stakes to trunk with ties made from wide, smooth material or hose-covered wire. Trees two inches or larger in diameter should be guyed with three or four wires or cables. Guy wires are secured to deeply driven short stakes evenly spaced outside the root ball. Guy wires should be run through rubber hose and secured to trunk at only one level. Mark support wires with bright materials to prevent accidents.

 

Guy wires should be adjusted several times during growing season to minimize trunk injury. Support stakes and wires should stay in place for one year.

 

Soil should be filled around root area once the tree is staked into position. Firm around roots to eliminate air pockets and provide support. Excess soil over the normal root area can be damaging. Only replace soil that has been washed or worked away from roots.

 

In cases where all branches were destroyed, remove the tree. This is especially important for trees such as pine that do not normally regain their natural form. You may be able to keep other trees such as oaks, where strong bottom limbs still exist. However, emerging sprouts from ends of large, cut limbs will be poorly secured to the tree and are likely to fall from the tree during a storm. In addition, decay organisms usually enter these large wounds. Trees and shrubs that lost their leaves from high winds can usually be saved and should resume growth.

Any tree work, including tree removal should be done by a professional arborist, preferably a certified arborist. To find a certified arborist in your area contact the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) at 217 355-9411 or at http://www.isa-arbor.com/. You also may contact the Florida Chapter of ISA at 941-342-0153 or at http://www.floridaisa.org/.

Reset plants should be watered twice a week and fertilizer should not be applied. Until re-established, fertilizer will be of no benefit and may injure new roots.

 

Plants exposed to saltwater, including lawns, should be irrigated with fresh water as soon as possible. Apply water more frequently than under normal conditions.

 

For additional information, visit http://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/disaster-prep-and-recovery or contact the UF/IFAS Extension Office in your county.

 

Mosquito Control in Your Landscape

 

A natural disaster such as Hurricane Michael can cause excess standing water which leads nuisance mosquito populations to greatly increase. Floodwater mosquitoes lay their eggs in the moist soil. Amazingly, the eggs survive even when the soil dries out. When the eggs in soil once again have consistent moisture, they hatch! One female mosquito may lay up to 200 eggs per batch . Standing water should be reduced as mush as possible to prevent mosquitoes from developing.

You should protect yourself by using an insect repellant (following all label instructions) with any of these active ingredients or using one of the other strategies:

  • DEET
  • Picaridin
  • Oil of lemon eucalyptus
  • Para-menthane diol
  • IR3535
  • An alternative is to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants – although that’s tough in our hot weather
  • Wear clothing that is pre-treated with permethrin or apply a permethrin product to your clothes, but not your skin!
  • Avoid getting bitten while you sleep by choosing a place with air conditioning or screens on windows and doors or sleep under a mosquito bed net.

Now let’s talk about mosquito control in your own landscape.

Let’s first explore what kind of environment in your landscape and around your home is friendly to the proliferation of mosquitoes. Adult mosquitoes lay their eggs on or very near water that is still or stagnant. That is because the larvae live in the water but have to come to the surface regularly to breeze. The small delicate larvae need the water surface to be still in order to surface and breathe. Water that is continually moving or flowing inhibits mosquito populations.

Look around your home and landscape for these possible sites of still water that can be excellent mosquito breeding grounds:

  • bird baths
  • potted plant saucers
  • pet dishes
  • old tires
  • ponds
  • roof gutters
  • tarps over boats or recreational vehicles
  • rain barrels (screen mesh over the opening will prevent females from laying their eggs)
  • bromeliads (they hold water in their central cup or leaf axils)
  • any other structure that will hold even a small amount of water (I even had them on a heating mat in a greenhouse that had very shallow puddles of water!)

You may want to rid yourself of some of these sources of standing water or empty them every three to four days. What if you have bromeliads, a pond or some other standing water and you want to keep them and yet control mosquitoes? There is an environmentally responsible solution. Some bacteria, Bacillus thuringiensis ssp. israelensis or Bacillus sphaericus, only infects mosquitoes and other close relatives like gnats and blackflies and is harmless to all other organisms. Look for products on the market that contain this bacteria.

 

For more information:

Mosquito Repellents

UF/IFAS Mosquito Information Website

 

Smart landscaping practices can reduce storm damage

Hurricane season probability and predictions. Graphic courtesy NOAA.

The Atlantic Hurricane Season began June 1. NOAA forecasters are currently predicting a relatively normal hurricane season, expecting 10-16 named storms with 5-9 of them becoming hurricanes. While we in the Panhandle dodged the serious damages inflicted upon the state by Hurricanes Irma and Maria last year, we have already experienced our first named storm. Subtropical storm Alberto left a relatively light touch along the Florida coast, but has inundated western North Carolina with heavy rains, causing floods and mudslides.

Tree damage to homes and property can be devastating, and one of the first instincts of many homeowners when they see a big storm in the Gulf is to start trimming limbs and removing trees.  However, it is wise to fully evaluate one’s landscape before making an irreversible decision. Trees are crucial for providing shade (i.e. energy savings), wildlife habitat, stormwater management, and maintaining property values.

Downed trees in a row along a hurricane-devastated street. Photo Credit: Mary Duryea, University of Florida

University of Florida researchers Mary Duryea and Eliana Kampf have done extensive studies on the effects of wind on trees and landscapes, and several important lessons stand out.  Keep in mind that reducing storm damage often starts at the landscape design/planning stage!

  • Select the right plant for the right place.
  • Post-hurricane studies in north Florida show that live oak, southern magnolia, sabal palms, and bald cypress stand up well compared to other trees during hurricanes.  Pecan, water and laurel oaks, Carolina cherry laurel and sand pine were among the least wind resistant.
  • Plant high-quality trees with strong central trunks and balanced branch structure.
  • Longleaf pine often survived storms in our area better than other pine species, but monitor pines carefully. Sometimes there is hidden damage and the tree declines over time. Look for signs of stress or poor health, and check closely for insects. Weakened pines may be more susceptible to beetles and diseases.
  • Remove hazard trees before the wind does. Have a certified arborist inspect your trees for signs of disease and decay. They are trained to advise you on tree health.
  • Trees in a group (at least five) blow down less frequently than single trees.
  • Trees should always be given ample room for roots to grow.  Roots absorb nutrients, but they are also the anchors for the tree. If large trees are planted where there is limited or restricted area for roots to grow out in all directions, there is a likelihood that the tree may fall during high winds.
  • Construction activities within about 20 feet from the trunk of existing trees can cause the tree to blow over more than a decade later.
  • Plant a variety of species, ages and layers of trees and shrubs to maintain diversity in your community
  • When a tree fails, plant a new one in its place.

For more information on managing your Florida landscape in hurricane season, visit the University of Florida’s Urban Forest Hurricane Recovery page.

Hurricane Preparation in the Landscape

Hurricane Preparation in the Landscape

Trees are often among the first victims of hurricane-force winds. Photo credit: Mary Duryea, University of Florida.

Well, it is the peak of hurricane season (June 1-November 30), and this one is proving to be no joke. After having all summer to heat up, Gulf and Atlantic water temperatures peak in late August-mid September, feeding storms’ strength. Legendary hurricanes like Harvey, Katrina, and Andrew all made landfall during this time of year. The models for Irma show likely impacts in Florida, and due to its extreme size, most of the state is in line to endure heavy rain and wind regardless of location.

From a landscaping perspective, hurricanes can be truly disastrous. I will never forget returning home after evacuating from Hurricane Ivan and realizing all the leaves had been blown from nearly every tree in town. Mid-September suddenly looked like the dead of winter. A Category 3 storm when it landed near the southwest corner of Escambia County, Ivan was responsible for a 40% loss of tree canopy in our county.

Even if the Panhandle is not directly impacted by a storm, it is always smart to prepare. Research conducted by University of Florida arborists and horticultural specialists have yielded some practical suggestions.

To evaluate trees for potential hazards;

  • Know your tree species and whether they are prone to decay or wind damage (more below).
  • Look for root or branch rot—usually indicated by very dark spots on the bark.
  • Tree structure—is there a single, dominant central trunk? Are branches attached to the trunk in a U-shape (strong) or V-shape (weak)?
  • Smart pruning—never “top” (cut the tops from trees) but instead prune crowded limbs and remove limbs that are dead, dying, or hanging above power lines.

As for species selection, keep in mind that pines generally do not perform well in gale-force winds. Longleaf pines are quite strong, but common slash pines often snap or lean in storms. Even if a pine tree survives, it can be vulnerable to damage or death from pine bark beetles. It is wise to monitor pines for up to 2 years after a storm.

In addition, a survey conducted throughout the southeastern United States after hurricanes from 1992-2005 yielded important information on the most (and least) wind-resistant tree species. Live oaks and Southern magnolias topped the list, while pecans and cherry laurels performed poorly. This full, user-friendly report from the study is a useful tool.

For more hurricane preparedness information, visit the UF IFAS Extension Disaster Manual online or contact your local Extension office or Emergency Management agency.