Ice damage follow-up: Tree branch breakage, insurance claims, and ways to help prevent it in the future

Several factors contribute to the snapping of tree branches when freezing rain occurs

SAN ANTONIO – When the sun came up Wednesday morning, a light was shed on ice damage found in northern Bexar County and the Hill Country.

Pictures sent in via KSAT Connect show broken tree limbs, downed power lines and even uprooted trees.

Here’s a break down of what enhances ice-related tree limb breakage, what to do with your insurance if it caused auto or home damage and ways to help prevent additional breakage going forward:

Do certain elements enhance tree breakage when ice is involved?

In short, yes! Several tree and weather-related parameters can aid in the snapping of tree branches when freezing rain occurs, including the following:

Drought-related stress

Lack of rainfall and pro-longed drought conditions can cause stress on area trees.

According to Alison Baylis with the Texas A&M Forest Service, “The effect that we typically see with drought is stress, and our trees have gone through a lot of stressful events recently, as well as the ice storm back in 2021, so that accumulation of stress could weaken a tree’s health.”

Tree structure / symmetry

Canopy structure, the way branches are situated on a tree trunk, and how strongly those branches are attached to the base of a tree can affect how many tree limbs fall when covered with ice.

“If a tree is weighted heavily on one side and then you add the extra weight of ice, that certainly could cause the whole tree to uproot out of the ground,” said Baylis.

Strong winds

Stronger winds can enhance the potential for ice accumulation damage as well. They can cause weakened and already-brittle tree limbs to crack when under extra weight from the ice.

Insurance: Does my coverage include falling tree branch damage due to ice?

If you sustained auto or home damage due to falling tree limbs, you may be wondering if your insurance policy will cover it.

According to Andrew Femath with USAA, this is where comprehensive coverage comes into play. After paying your deductible, meet with your insurance company to work out the remaining details.

If there is damage to your home, check your homeowner’s policy for exact details.

“Homeowners’ policies can vary across the board depending on company, type of structure, so you definitely want to stay connected, contact your insurance company, and really get that claims process rolling,” said Femath.

Femath also states that the weather is a reason why comprehensive coverage is important. Winter ice storms can lead in springtime hail storms, so events like this serve as a reminder to look at your policy and make sure that your current coverage meets your needs.

It’s best to start off with making temporary repairs, so if another weather event happens, you won’t find additional, preventative damages. Be sure to take pictures of receipts since that will be looked at throughout the claims process before making final repairs.

How to help prevent ice-covered tree branches from snapping in the future

Ice will be ice, but there are a few ways that you can help prevent additional tree branches from snapping when events like this happen in the future.

“Regularly maintaining your trees and pruning for good structure could help with not experiencing as much breakage as we saw,” said Baylis.

She also stated that when planting new trees, don’t plant them under already-established utility wires if they are going to be tall trees once fully matured.

About the Author:

Meteorologist Mia Montgomery joined the KSAT Weather Authority Team in September 2022. As a Floresville native, Mia grew up in the San Antonio area and always knew that she wanted to return home. She previously worked as a meteorologist at KBTX in Bryan-College Station and is a fourth-generation Aggie.