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Arborist points to hundreds of reasons trees fall

Updated: Tuesday, July 1 2014, 06:39 PM EDT

By: Maria Miller

HOLSOPPLE, Pa. --- A tree expert said nobody is to blame for two trees falling on moving vehicles in Somerset County in just a week's time.

Police called both incidents "freak accidents." But believe it or not, they're not the only occurrences in Pennsylvania this week. A man was just killed Monday night in Warren County when a tree hit his car.

"(PennDOT) tries to keep a regular maintenance interval or schedule so to speak, but they can't be everywhere at once and this is obviously a big problem," said Ryan Beeghley.

The Pennyslvania Department of Transportation has special funds and money set aside to take care of rotted trees, but with thousands upon thousands of miles of roadway throughout the state, and even more trees lining them, it's nearly impossible for the state, or any organization, to continually keep a proactive watch -- not to mention there are hundreds of reasons why a tree can fall.

"There are tell-tale signs as far as what is hazardous from root flare to taper deformities on up the line to the case spots and cankers," said Beeghly.

Beeghly is a certified arborist and local tree expert and he knows his business. On Tuesday, he was able to point to any tree along the road and find something wrong that could cause it to topple over.

"Usually you will find some hazard present within any tree at any given point in time," Beeghly said.

Pointing to a nearby locust tree, he said, "In this case it would be both dead limbs up top as well as this co-dominant stem."

He can't say for sure what caused a tree in Conemaugh Township to fall onto a passing car last week, killing two young girls and injuring their pregnant mother and her boyfriend. Nor can he say what caused a similar accident near Boswell Monday. But he does know why the trees fell towards the road.

"Trees are naturally phototrophic. They want to grow towards available sunlight and being that obviously above the roadway is available sunlight, they're going to have a tendency to want to grow that way," Beeghly said.

But why they snap and fall could be any number of reasons from rotted roots to common pests like the emerald ash borer. In our region, Beeghly said storm damage is mostly to blame.

"Severe weather is probably the biggest deciding factor in this area," Beeghly said. "If a severe storm were to come through the area, a lot of times you'll see your trees come down two or three or four days afterwards."

And that's why he said after a tragic accident involving a fallen tree, it's hard told to place blame or fault on any entity.

"You're going to have a tough time proving negligence on any sort of level. Trees are a product of nature. Trees fall in nature," Beeghly said. "The roadways weren't put there by nature; they were put there by man. And for that reason it's kind of hart to point a finger so to speak."

When people drive, they're obviously looking at the road, not the trees. But anyone who does notice a tree that look bad and is certain will fall over, Beeghly said calling PennDOT is a good start because they will usually, at the very least, take a look.

Arborist points to hundreds of reasons trees fall

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Edgar Snyder

Washington Times