METAIRIE, La. — Even though Hurricane Barry didn't cause that much damage compared to other storms, there were still many scenes of trees that came crashing down across southeast Louisiana.

In many cases, the storm is not the problem. Trees that come crashing down in a high winds and rain can be costly, a nuisance, knock out power to thousands, cause property damage and be deadly.

With the busy months of hurricane season around the corner, now is the time to make sure your tree can make it through a storm.

How to spot an unhealthy tree 

A White Oak tree in City Park is sickly. There are branches all around that have fallen from the top. You can see lichen growing on them, as well as mushrooms. Look up, and the canopy is getting thin. Look down and mushrooms are around the base.

"You see how this is all loose? This is the tree trying to contain this necrosis, this part where it's dying," Arborist Tim Benton, Owner of Benton Tree Service, said as he demonstrated bark that comes off easily.   

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Benton says these things are not causing the tree to die. They were just attracted to a tree already in decline.

"The fungus and the termites that show up there, they're taking advantage of that free buffet, right? The termites only eat dead wood. The fungus will digest dead wood," he said.

He says we weaken trees by over-watering, using fertilizer near the roots and by cutting roots the wrong way for construction and building reasons, as well as by the weight of Spanish moss. 

We help a declining tree, however, when we prune the correct way.  

"When you remove limbs that are dead or declining or unhealthy, you're doing a big help. You're doing a big service to that tree, because you're doing what the tree can't. You're shedding that loss of energy," said Benton.

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It can happen to all trees, but horticulturist Dan Gill, with the LSU AgCenter, says he sees Water Oaks falling often in storms because they get old around 60.

So tap the tree truck and listen for a hollow sound. Look for termite trails. Is the trunk 'punky,' meaning soft enough to push a screw driver in it? These are all signs they are no match for mother nature in a storm. 

Still, Live Oak and Bald Cypress trees are considered one of the most hurricane-resistant because they shed leaves in 100 mph winds.

Many arborists will give a free consultation to look at potential problem trees in your yard.

If a neighbor's tree falls and damages your property, you are liable for costs, unless beforehand, you sent the homeowner a certified letter from an arborist stating the tree is hazardous. Otherwise, legally it is considered an 'Act of God' and you pay.

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