AUSTIN (KXAN) — People all over Central Texas woke up last weekend with one mission in mind, taking care of the trees they lost during the ice storm.

While some trees are simply too large to do yourself, smaller trees that lost limbs could benefit from some tidying.

Snapped trees due to ice in southeast Austin (Courtesy: John Hubbard)
Snapped trees due to ice in southeast Austin (Courtesy: John Hubbard)

But simply grabbing a saw you don’t often use without a plan isn’t the right course of action.

We talked with Bartlett Tree Experts Consulting Arborist Michael Embesi about what to focus on as you go about trimming your trees.


“Personal safety is essential in assessing the tree to make sure that you’re not going to be in the fall zone or assessing the tree to make sure that there are no utility lines wrapped up in that tree. These are very substantial safety issues, and so you have to be cognizant prior to working on a tree for your own safety,” Embesi said.


“Obviously, the smaller the better so that you have fewer heavy branches above you. On a small tree, you want to try to assess where the damage is, it can be a cracked branch, it can be a broken branch, it can be a fallen branch and really those branches should have repair cuts performed to them,” Embesi said.

Snapped trees due to ice in the Circle C area of Austin (Courtesy: @joe_curry via Twitter)
Snapped trees due to ice in the Circle C area of Austin (Courtesy: @joe_curry via Twitter)

Where to Cut

“Ideally you want to take it back to to the trunk or to the nearest parent stem. That’s the proper pruning cut. Because of these substantial impacts that we had throughout our community to our trees, many times you may be only able to drop that limb or to cut that limb off because you can’t prune in the proper location… If you can’t make the proper pruning cut, (return) either that day or in a few weeks when you can reassess the tree and make the proper pruning cut. That’s an important aspect to this,” Embesi said.


“Ideally you want to do it sooner than later, but there are lots of factors of how quickly you can do that. If you can perform it, you want to do it soon because the tree is already responding to that injury. If you can make a clean cut on the limb, it has a much smaller wound that the tree can see over as opposed to a jagged branch that is broken,” Embesi said.

Local tree trimmer says these common trees shouldn't be trimmed until this summer
Heavy ice broke countless tree limbs in Central Texas (Photo: ReportIt)

Can a bad cut hurt a tree?

“Yes, there’s a risk. If you happen to prune the tree incorrectly, there’s a really good chance you can properly prune the tree at a later date. You really want to try to avoid improper pruning because you’re making multiple wounds. And you’re asking that tree to spend additional energy repairing that poor pruning wound. So have a plan. Be aware of the proper pruning techniques if you choose to do it yourself and not hire a professional arborist,” Embesi said.