Urban “Widow-Makers”: Storms Leave Dangerous Trail In Falls Church

If you have done any amount of back-packing then you are familiar with “widow-makers”. If you have done much back-packing and do not know this term… you should probably learn it before you go out again. “Widow-makers”, in short, are large branches you want to try and avoid putting your tent under because they are nearly broken, or have broken off and are dangling from another branch.

Though it is always a good idea to be aware of widow-makers when out on the trail, we shouldn’t leave that awareness at the trail head when we pack up and head home.

After the famed derecho earlier this summer, and the strong storms we experienced this past Friday, trees and lims were strewn throughout Falls Church and Arlington yards, and roads. I was reminded yesterday that not all branches that bend during a storm actually break, and not all broken branches make it all the way to the ground on the first try. Take, for instance, this poor quality photo I took of a branch that had not (yet) fallen on one of our cars after Friday’s storm.

This particular branch was still hanging on by a thread. I had not noticed it until a crew rang our doorbell this afternoon and asked me to move the car. Our kids played under it several times over the weekend, we also loaded them into the car right below it without any consideration. What is more, once the crew took this branch down, they realized there were two more smaller limbs further up the tree that were also broken.

In short, if you have mature trees in your yard, maybe take a few minutes and look up to see what might be ready to come down the next time the wind blows. This is not only for your personal safety, but it is also something that may save you future property damage.

At Cherry Hill Park in Falls Church this weekend our family was engrossed by the efforts of a crew who was climbing up, wrangling, and dismantling a large tree just on the property line that had lost a couple of very large limbs. So, if you take your kids to the local park (or just live next to one), have a look up there as well and if there are cracked or dangling limbs let the appropriate county or city department know about the hazard.

Here is another photo to provide an idea of scale:

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