Insurance, utility companies say falling tree branches knot a concern

By Max T. Russell

The trees in my yard spook me. They get bigger every year, and I worry about them falling on the telephone and electric lines. But trees usually don’t fall where we expect. Strong or rotten, they fall where gravity, wind, ice, snow and other influences take them.

One large, thriving tree hit my house when I made a slight but influential miscalculation about where to make the “felling cut” with my chainsaw.

I recall the time strong winds visited the neighborhood where I lived in Fort Wayne. They were gone in half a minute. I heard conversations on the sidewalk and went out to see what was going on. Sturdy trees were down. One lay across the front of a neighbor’s car. The rear wheels were in the air.

My wife and I were hiking Trail 3 at Turkey Run State Park when we came across an old tree that had crashed on the rocky creek canyon and scattered in enormous pieces on the trail below. I mentioned that it would be frightening to have all that wood fall as you were walking there, which of course is too unlikely to even consider.

We walked another 100 feet and heard a thunderous falling of something behind us. When we went back to inspect, we found large sections of another tree trunk where we had just been standing!

I have often dodged large pieces of branches on a certain, heavily traveled road on Indianapolis’ northeast side. Sometimes the road is covered with debris large enough to damage a tire and cause a wreck. But everyone, including me, drives on by because we’re sure the city will clean up the danger again and again, if limbs ever fall again, which is so improbable.

A mild storm came through a state park where I was lodging a few months ago. After it passed, I decided to head into town. I drove toward the park’s main gate and entered a debris field of large, broken limbs in my path. Why, I said to me, if someone had been driving in that very spot when those limbs fell, what an unhappy moment it would’ve been.

That’s when I really started putting two and two together and realizing that I’ve seen enough fallen trees in unexpected places and with unlikely timing that I no longer believe people are foolish to take sensible precautions. Strong trees may or may not fall. They probably will not fall where we fear they will. They probably won’t even fall. Rotten trees are a more serious consideration, if you want to get serious.

But I talked to my insurance company, and nobody there is bothered. I also talked to an expert on utility poles who looked my property over and said he wasn’t afraid of my trees falling.

So, if the insurance and utility companies aren’t bothered, shoot, I’m going to quit worrying about these trees … one of these days.

Max T. Russell of New Palestine writes for the international business intelligence community. You can contact him via his website, or send comments to