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Eversource Working to Protect System Reliability Against Trees Weakened by Drought

Submitted by Mitch Gross, Eversource

(September 1, 2022) — The drought plaguing the region is not only affecting water supplies and burning out lawns, it’s also leaving trees around the state weak and vulnerable with the potential to damage the electric system. As effects of the drought coupled with the ongoing infestation by invasive insects continue to threaten Connecticut’s landscape, Eversource is working closely with the communities it serves to address the hazardous trees along roads across the state that threaten overhead electric lines.

“It has been a hot, dry summer and our team of arborists is seeing telltale signs of stress, like weakened branches and early fall color,” said Eversource Vegetation Management Manager for Connecticut Sean Redding. “We’ve seen the devastation storms can cause, and trees already in poor health are especially vulnerable to the effects of drought, raising even greater concern of them coming down in a storm, possibly taking down electric lines with them and causing power outages. Addressing the state of our trees is critically important to ensuring safe, reliable electric service for our customers, and we’re committed to collaboration with our communities and property owners as the changing climate drives more extreme drought conditions that weaken trees and threaten reliability.”

Eversource works closely with forestry partners at the University of Connecticut to address tree concerns across the state. UConn Associate Extension Professor of Forestry Thomas Worthley says most trees can withstand occasional drought conditions like those Connecticut is experiencing, but repeated droughty seasons can be highly stressful for trees.

“Current circumstances can result in the loss of trees that are already under stress for other reasons, such as insect infestations, diseases, overcrowding, past storm damage and location factors like already very dry sites,” said Professor Worthley. “Drought can also exacerbate some of these stresses. Some trees may enter dormancy earlier, exhibiting early foliage color change. In general, most trees will produce smaller growth rings during drought conditions, thus sequestering less carbon from the atmosphere than in ‘normal’ years. Some loss of limbs or branches might also be expected, presenting potential hazard situations.”

Eversource reminds customers that maintaining vegetation and trees is a shared responsibility among utilities, communities and property owners. The energy company encourages customers to work with them and give permission when needed to trim or remove trees that are in danger of coming down and could possibly cause power outages. Customers should also check trees on their property for signs of stress, which may include thinning of the crown, loss of foliage and the presence of mushrooms near the base of the tree and call a licensed arborist to assess the situation.

The energy company regularly performs maintenance work to clear branches, trees and other vegetation that cause outages or are public safety concerns and works with property owners to help them understand their responsibility to maintain their own trees, including keeping branches away from the lower-voltage service wires connecting their homes and businesses to the main utility lines on the street.

For details on the energy company’s comprehensive vegetation management program, please visit Eversource.com.

Photo provided by Eversource.

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