(WXIA) -- Strong winds can take down the healthiest trees.
The odds of a tree coming down in your yard, on your car or house, are increased exponentially if the tree has weak spots -- weaknesses you can spot.
Defects in the trunk
Peter "Treeman" Jenkins, a certified arborist, president of the Georgia Arborist Association, and veteran tree inspector, said Tuesday that even a small defect in a tree's trunk can be trouble -- a warning sign of dangerous decay just underneath.
"And it might be very extensive decay, so when the winds come in and they hit the tree, and they rock the tree, they'll oscillate the tree, the tree can snap there."
Mushrooms shout "danger," because they're an indication that the roots supporting the tree -- a tree that can weigh 20 to 30 tons -- are disintegrating fast.
"If mushrooms are growing on the trunk, or on the root flare, that usually means root rot. This is a very, very strong indicator that the tree is unstable. So if you see these guys growing on your tree or on the root flares, yeah, you really need to get that checked out. There's not a whole lot holding up that tree."
Look up -- high -- for nesting holes.
"These woodpeckers when they make nesting holes, they only carve in decayed wood. They don't carve into solid wood, it's too hard. It just tells me that there is decayed wood up there. That is where the tree will probably break, right in that area."
"Wishbone weakness" -- that's the bump that looks like swelling, just below the V where two trunks meet to form the main base trunk. It means that one of the trunks may be read to snap.
"The bump is a weak section of the tree, the tree's laying down reinforcing wood to buff up its strength. But that doesn't mean it's strong. It just tells me there's a weak spot there, the tree knows it, the tree's trying to compensate, but that's a sign that it's a weak spot."
Leaning to the east
And if a tree is leaning to the east, watch out.
"If the lean is more towards the east, most of your winds come from the west. So if your tree leans out over your house towards the east, that jacks up the risk factor. Wind direction's a big deal when it comes to tree stability."
A tree inspection and the work that might be needed can cost $200 or $300 or maybe more.
That's a tiny fraction of the cost of the damage that trees can cause when they fall.