Larry Caplan discusses trees toppling due to saturated ground


EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) – Chief Meteorologist Wayne Hart sat down with Larry Caplan of Caplan Trees & Landscaping on Monday to discuss how a combination of saturated ground and wind is causing some trees in the Tri-State to topple.


Wayne Hart: Joining me now is Larry Caplan, owner of Caplan Trees & Landscaping. You probably recognize Larry from his days at the Ag Extension with Purdue and wrote a column in the Courier for years. Good to see you Larry.

Larry Caplan: Wonderful to be here. Thanks for having me Wayne.

WH: We had nearly four inches of rain over the weekend and even though our winds were not severe, above 50mph, some trees toppled down. The ground was just so saturated, it couldn’t hang onto the root system I guess.

LC: That’s right. We’re seeing this in a lot of areas. I’ve been seeing pictures throughout the Ohio Valley, Midwest. The ground is so saturated that the tree roots have nothing to grab onto. Some of our soils, especially with a lot of clay and silt, become very slippery when they’re wet. And the roots have nothing to grab onto. So when you get a big gust of wind, it literally just lifts the tree up and throws it over because there’s just nothing to hold it down. And this has been a big problem.

WH: Is there anything a homeowner could do: look at their trees, any indication that there is a problem?

LC: Yes, I brought a picture. I don’t know if they have it on there. If you notice the ground beginning to heave up on one side of the tree. That’s a good picture right there. On the right side of the tree, the soil is beginning to heave upwards a little bit. And that’s an indication that the root plate is beginning to give. Some roots are snapping. Some of the smaller roots for feeding and stability are snapping. And so, as that soil moves up, you may see on the opposite side of the tree, it actually starts sinking down. If you see that, call a tree company immediately and get them out there to get that tree down because a big tree like that: 40,50-foot tree, there’s no way you’re going to stop it from going over. It’s too heavy.

WH: And you can’t really save it at that point. It’s just… not much you can do.

LC: Right. Once it starts going, there’s not a lot we can do. Protecting the roots from damage, from trenching, from any other moving – that is important but that’s something that should be going on all the time. If you’ve got roof damage, then we could expect that.

WH: Make no mistake. Falling trees can be very dangerous.

LC: Absolutely. They’ll do tremendous damage to property, people, and it’s just best not to be under them.

WH: They call one the widow maker.

LC: That’s right. When you get these big trees that lands on another one and that’s the only thing holding it up – trying to take out the leaning tree is extremely dangerous. And you need some highly qualified people to do this.

WH: And it can literally cut right through a house.

LC: I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it. Total destruction of houses, of vehicles. It’s just something to keep your eyes open for. If people do have concerns about, ‘is my tree in danger?’ They can call me, I can come out, and do an inspection.

WH: And you have a Facebook page also?

LC: I do have a Facebook page, a website, email, so…

WH: Great. Larry Caplan, thanks so much for joining us and good to see you again.

LC: Thank you very much Wayne. Hopefully we’ll have some better weather. Maybe a little snow? I don’t know about that. But we’ll talk about that coming up in our 7 day forecast which has some colder air in the upcoming weekend.

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(This story was originally published on January 14, 2020)

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