Summer heat is not complete without thunderstorms and lightning. As a kid you probably feared the sound of thunder more than lightning, while as an adult you know the lightning can cause the greatest damage, especially to trees.
This summer a Quercus phellos by Sharples Dining Hall was stuck. Typical of common physical indicators of a lightning strike, vertical stripping displaying the wood underneath the bark was present long the trunk of the tree and on some major limbs. Bark was also violently blown off the tree and scattered across the ground.
To clean-up after a lightning strike, pick-up the bark debris and assess for any immediate safety concerns. If there is nothing immediate, simply wait and see. Give you tree to time to heal and react to damage that was caused by the strike.
Some branches will break and fall naturally as they are too damaged for the tree to sustain. If you only lose a couple of branches and see limited die-back, your tree should have a long life. If you see consistent damage throughout the canopy, the strike probably damaged the vascular tissues which conduct fluids up and down the tree. This will severely shorten the life of your tree.
After cleaning up the bark debris around the Quercus phellos, we are in “wait and see” mode. Thus far the large oak has not dropped any branches and appears healthy. We will monitor the tree closely over the next two to three years to see if severe damage has occurred.