Bennett Joffrion, Lirette, Celeste A.
Because of their height, trees are susceptible to lightning strikes.
The severity of damage to a tree struck by lightning is dependent on several variables, including the power and duration of the lightening bolt, the tree's height, depth of root system, type soil, duration and composition.
In addition, the moisture content of the tree can affect the degree of damage.
When a tree is wet, lightning tends to follow the outside line of the strike on a tree. When dry, the bolt tends to travel through the inside, creating great amounts of steam and splintering or blasting the tree apart.
Lightning will either move in a narrow line down the branches, stems and roots of the tree, or along a wide pathway encompassing the entire tree cylinder.
Lightning destroys tissue by electrical disruption and heat. Massive root damage may occur and often goes undetected. It can also lead to excessive water loss, leaving the tree vulnerable to destruction by pests.
Some trees can take a strike and survive. Most of the time, the tree will be severely damaged and eventually die. Many times, it takes from six months to a year or longer before you see outward damage signs where the tree begins to die.
Cement, tar, fillers, etc. are not recommended to be put in or on strike areas. Also remember that root damage often goes unnoticed.
If your tree is struck by lightning you need to assess the damage for outward signs. You will probably need to wait several months before you determine what actions or damage has occurred to the tree. Severely cracked or split trunk damage usually will indicate loss of the tree. You will need to keep in mind the safety of humans and structures on how soon you need to take the tree down.
If the tree needs to be taken down, be sure to use an arborist licensed by the Louisiana Department of Ag and Forestry.
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture