A Toronto arborist says property owners should have their trees examined every three years to prevent the kind of damage the city saw during superstorm Sandy.

Todd Irvine, of Bruce Irvine and Associates, appeared on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning on Thursday and said home owners should have their trees inspected and maintained on a regular basis, as they would a furnace or roof.

"Trees need care and we sometimes take them for granted," he told host Matt Galloway.

Hurricane Sandy made landfall in the Eastern U.S. on Monday where it caused at least 70 deaths along with widespread damage and power outages. The damage was far less severe as the storm moved northward, reaching Toronto on Monday evening.

Still, Sandy managed to generate 100 km/h winds, knocking out power to about 60,000 homes and businesses, mainly due to toppled trees taking out power lines. One woman was killed after being struck in the head near Keele Street and St. Clair Avenue West by a large windblown sign. On Quebec Avenue in the west end street, a car was badly burned after a falling tree took out a power line, sparking an electrical fire.  

Irvine said many Toronto trees were planted more than 100 years ago. He also said about 80 per cent of trees in Toronto are on private property and not the responsibility of city maintenance crews.

He suggested the following tips for anyone with large trees on their property:

  • Look for cracks, falling bark, dead branches and mushrooms around the trunk. All are signs the tree could be in trouble.
  • Have a certified arborist inspect the tree every three years to ensure it’s safe. Felling the tree may not be necessary as Irvine says some trees only need pruning or a stabilizing cable installed.

And while wind was the main culprit in Monday’s storm damage, Irvine said the rain in days leading up to Monday’s storm was another factor.

"It softens up the ground and in some cases, in certain soil types, trees will tip over simply because the trees can’t hold them in the ground."