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Why do trees topple over in storms?

There were many downed trees across the Piedmont Triad from Saturday's storms.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Saturday night was a busy night of weather all across the state of North Carolina. The Triad made it out pretty lucky though, with no tornado warnings in our area and only two total in the state.

Even though we never had a tornado warning, the winds were still whipping 60-70 mph in places as storms came through. We've also seen a lot of rain lately. We were over the average rainfall for December and approaching the average for January.

Credit: WFMY

Lots of rain and strong winds can spell trouble, and in fact it did. Numerous trees came down Saturday night, bringing down some power lines and also causing damage to homes and cars. But why did it happen?

When the ground is dry and strong winds blow, tree roots are able to lock into place. This scenario makes it less likely for trees to come down in the strong wind.

Credit: WFMY

But, when we've had a lot of rain and the ground is soaking wet, those roots start to lose their grip and the roots are able to loosen up in the saturated ground.

Credit: WFMY

Once those roots lose their grip, the trees are able to be blown around quite a bit more in a storm with strong winds. It's sort of like trying to walk in the mud with slick shoes, you lose your grip. The same thing happens with trees and they topple over.

Credit: WFMY

This was likely the cause of many downed trees on Saturday night.


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