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Iconic palm tree-lined streets damaged by windy storms

University Heights sunset with palm trees
Posted at 12:01 AM, Feb 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-19 03:01:50-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - The recent storms have been toppling trees across the county, including at least three palm trees that have landed on cars.

When healthy, palm trees rarely topple over due to wind, says arborist Wayne Tyson.

“They can blow back and forth and never break,” he said.

What allows them to grow so tall is their system of long, thin roots that can extend far and deep into the ground.

But in urban settings, there can be restrictions.

Tyson says, many palm trees that line the sides of roads are not watered often enough and typically do not receive enough fertilizer.

“People don’t take a whole lot of attention to them. Palms are living off water from lawns,” he said.

The roots can also be restricted by sidewalks and road pavements, as well as the natural bedrock beneath much of central San Diego.

“Underneath the soil in these flat regions of San Diego there is a hard and impenetrable formation, iron cemented sandstone. And they can’t get their roots below that,” he said.

The result can be trees that are too tall for their own root structures and can be more susceptible to falling over in windy conditions.

Healthy palms typically have wide trunks that flay out towards the soil, says Tyson.

The ones to worry about have no visible roots, skinny trunks, yellow fronds and noticeable leans. But none of those guarantee a tree will fall over.

“There’s no way of knowing exactly when a tree is going to fall, but we can make fair, educated guesses,” said Tyson.