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      Trees during a freeze can be dangerous

      With many trees across mid-Missouri still covered in ice from freezing rain, one tree expert is warning people to stay away from frozen trees.

      James Hentges of Hentges tree service said a big freeze has the potential to inflict long-term damage to trees through the extra weight ice puts on the branches.

      "The longer the ice stays on the trees, the more damaging it becomes," Hentges said. "It increases the amount of stress on the tree."

      Hentges said the consequences of a freeze can last long after the ice has melted. Trees are slow to recover from the stress of added weight; a tree that has been through several successive years of droughts, diseases and freezes may be more prone to breaking apart than a tree that has not.

      New Bloomfield homeowner Almon Pearre said he wasn't about to take any chances when his trees became covered in ice. "I have Chinese elms and they're getting quite old," Pearre said. "I knew if we had an ice storm... that they're going to break down."

      Hentges said the freezing rain of December 20-21 has caused trees in mid-Missouri to become covered in 3/8 to 1/2 an inch worth of ice, not enough to cause major damage. Some trees that are old or weak might be more prone to breaking because of the ice, but most trees will be okay.

      Hentges said anyone can take a few simple steps to reduce the danger posed by frozen trees.

      "Stay away from the tree. If it's got ice on it, absolutely don't go near it," Hentges said. "Don't park under it, if it hasn't broken move everything out away from it."

      Hentges tree service does not recommend pruning the trees after an ice storm, as the frozen branches weigh more and pose more of a physical danger. Hentges said if nothing breaks during or after the freeze, it may be a good idea to get your trees looked at in the spring to make sure there is no danger.