Even with branches down all over Lexington, damage to trees is not nearly as severe as during the 2003 ice storm, several tree experts said.
"A lot of trees were self-pruned then. That took out some weak and broken limbs," said Lexington urban forester Tim Queary, who was helping coordinate work crews in the city's streets and roads department Wednesday morning.
That does not explain all the difference, Queary said. The ice that began forming on trees Tuesday is not nearly as thick. "There was 2 inches of ice in '03, compared with one-half to maybe three-quarters of an inch now. That's a big difference."
The city was inundated with calls of downed trees on Wednesday, but Queary said road crews were responding first to calls about limbs and fallen trees blocking streets.
Even with less ice, several inches of wet snow will add more weight. So there remains potential for more damage, said arborist Dave Leonard, who dispatched two crews with chain saws, responding to 40 calls he received Wednesday morning.
Arborist Ian Hoffman said his employees were responding to calls to clear driveways, and farm roads, and to remove limbs on cars. "If something is on a roof or is a hanging danger, we would remove that. But we're not doing pruning 'til some of the ice melts," he said.
After the 2003 ice storm, Lexington homeowners learned a lot about proper tree care, the important of keeping trees healthy and correct pruning, Hoffman said. "A lot of people took care of business after the last storm. They should be spared some of the damage this time."
More-aggressive pruning by utility companies has helped remove weak branches, in addition to more aggressive efforts by the city to force people to take care of street trees.
Two years ago, Lexington strengthened its street-tree ordinance to allow the city to cite and fine property owners with hazardous street trees. If a tree poses a serious threat to public safety, the city can have the tree cut down and charge the property owner for the cost of removal.
Strict enforcement of the ordinance has paid off, Queary said: "We're seeing fewer problems with street trees right now."
The main advice from arborists is, don't knock ice off your trees and shrubs.
"You'll break the limbs and do more damage," said arborist B. G. Hubbs, owner of Community Tree Care. "Wait 'til the ice melts."
Don't go under big trees to drag out fallen limbs. There might be more cracked or broken branches up there that could fall. "You might end up being a casualty," Leonard said.
Don't touch any limbs on or near power lines. Call the utility company.
Trees are resilient, and many trees bent under ice and snow will straighten up when the ice melts.
"Right now, the main concern should be about getting limbs off the roof, off cars, the driveway, the sidewalk," Hoffman said. There will be plenty of time later to pick up debris.