(WHDH) — Through snow and summer storms, we’ve all seen the damage downed trees can cause.

Experts say many of the trees that fall during storms are zombie trees — trees that are weak or nearly dead.

“A zombie tree is a tree that has experienced some kind of disturbance that has caused the tree to become unstable or unsafe but still has the appearance of being a totally healthy tree,” arborist Steven Kendall explained.

Part of Kendall’s job is to help homeowners find the troubling trees lurking in their yards. 7NEWS got the chance to see him in action as he patrolled Sally Meding’s Natick home.

Meding said she knows how frightening falling trees can be. Her son needed stitches when a tree fell on him while he was riding his bike in Wellesley.

“That was really, really scary for me,” she said. “Really scary.”

Kendall said they are simple signs that homeowners can use to identify tree trouble themselves. He instructs them to look closely at the ground around the tree for mounds or cracks in the dirt.

“It could be the root zone has been impacted either by a shifting due to high winds or some or some other kind of loading,” he explained.

If the tree is often surrounded by puddles, that could spell trouble too.

“Flooding can often times cause root death,” he said.

Some other signs include:

  • A tree that is leaning to one side
  • Animal and bird nests can hollow out the tree and weaken it
  • Cracks in the trunk

Mending said she was concerned about a crack in the tree next to her driveway.

“That happened in a high wind and made an awful sound,” she said.

However, upon closer inspection, Kendall said the tree is actually in really good shape.

“It’s not a full-thickness crack and it looks like the tree is doing a pretty good job of trying to heal that wound,” he told Mending.

Another helpful trick for finding zombie trees: take photographs once or twice a year and compare them with past pictures so you can see any changes, especially after a storm.

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