Hurricane Sandy: Downed Trees Pose Safety Risk

PHOTO: Long Island Power Authority personnel view a fallen tree limb suspended on a power line on 19th Avenue that fell as a result of the powerful winds from Hurricane Sandy, Oct. 29, 2012, in Sea Clff, N.Y.
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As Hurricane Sandy makes its way up the Eastern seaboard, wet ground and gale force winds can uproot trees, creating a serious hazard.

During Hurricane Irene in August 2011, at least a dozen deaths were attributed to falling trees as the storm pummeled the East Coast. People were struck by trees both before and after Irene hit, and in one case a downed tree limb hit power lines and started a fire in an 89-year-old woman's Connecticut home, killing her.

This weekend New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg urged all residents to stay out of the city's parks until at least next Sunday, as falling tree limbs pose a danger not only during a storm but afterward too.

New Hampshire Fire Marshal J. William Degnan told ABCNews.com that when a tree does fall on a house during a hurricane, residents should remain inside.

"At this point, if a tree falls on their property, people anywhere from Washington, D.C., to New England should stay inside until after the storm has passed," Degnan said. "You can have branches that are falling, that could strike you. ... We emphasize that the trees are not going to react in the same way as when you're cutting them down under normal conditions in the woods."

As Sandy moves through the Northeast, residents should move their possessions away from windows and toward the center of the rooms, said Degnan. Children's cribs should be moved far away from windows.

"During the height of a storm, if you have trees that are very close to your home, get in one of the interior rooms. If it's a two-story home, stay on the first floor," Degnan said.

Residents are encouraged not to do anything about downed trees while Hurricane Sandy is still raging, as attempting to cut down a tree can cause more damage and create more danger. If a tree lands on a house, residents should contact their local fire department, which can check to see if any damage has been done to gas or electrical lines. They should also contact their insurance company, and take pictures of the damage as soon as the hurricane has passed. Then they should call in a professional tree removal company.

Since fallen trees are often caught in power lines, it's important that every downed limb close to an electrical line be treated as if it were a live wire. No one should ever attempt to untangle a tree or its branches from power lines.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends that before a major storm residents ensure that trees and shrubs around their house are well trimmed, as that makes them more wind resistant.

Rob Marianetti at Hurricane Tree Experts Inc. on New York's Long Island said that it's best to have trees inspected if not before a storm, then immediately afterward.

"Every tree should be inspected properly, so everyone is aware of what's going on. People are calling today, concerned that they're a little late," he told ABCNews.com "It's all about before the storm. But everyone should get their trees inspected immediately after the storm. If the tree's not down, it could be moments from falling."

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