ATLANTA -- Marcia Whitaker woke up to the sound of trees crashing around her apartment. You can imagine her fear. We've all seen the damage trees can leave behind.
"If a bad storm came through here, with all these trees? They're everywhere," said Whitaker relieved to learn it was only a crew from Kilmurry Tree Service, hired to remove some of the pines around her complex.
But across town, a southwest Atlanta homeowner wasn't so lucky. There, a tree fell down on the side of her house, causing roof damage and taking power lines with it.
John Powell, an arborist with Bartlett Tree Experts, says unhealthy trees are the most likely to succumb in a storm.
There are several red flags from cracks in the bark, erosion, exposed roots, and beetles. But Powell says by the time someone with an untrained eye spots the damage, it's usually too late to save the tree.
He suggests having a licensed arborist walk your property each year. The diagnosis usually comes free.
"Are dead branches going to fall on somebody? Is there a split in the tree where the tree might need a support system like a cable? Even if you prune the dead wood out of a tree and fertilize, that will help create a healthier tree and a better root system," said Powell.
Jason Bentley with Kilmurry Tree Service says you also want to keep an eye out for congestion.
"You've got to have trees thinned out to where they're not fighting for nutrients," Bentley explained.
Bentley says taller trees can block the sunlight needed for the trees below to grow properly. That's why he says pine trees often look like Q-tips with the growth only on top, reaching for the light. It makes them top heavy, weak and more likely to fall.
"Wind is usually the problem we have with pine trees, oak trees its rot or disease," said Bentley.
That's why Powell says the key to striking a balance between beauty and safety is proper maintenance to keep your trees healthy and identify the sick ones before its too late.