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Why desert trees fall so easily during monsoon

It might appear there are lots of toppled trees after a storm. Experts explain why desert trees are so susceptible.
Diane Bennett shows us the huge tree that fell during Tuesday's monsoon storm in Mesa.

Some valley neighborhoods are still dealing with the damage left behind after Tuesday's monsoon storms. Oftentimes, that means downed trees.  So why do so many of them fall over during these storms?

Jeff Harper of Scottsdale's Harper's Landscape Company and Garden Center put it simply.  "Our landscaping requires maintenance just like our home does," he said.

One after another following a monsoon storm, 12 News viewers send us pictures of fallen trees in their neighborhood, including Diane Bennett who lives in Mesa.

"It's the first thing I saw when I came home this morning," she said.

Bennett walked 12 News towards the giant tree taking a piece if the earth with it as it fell on her community golf course.  She said there is one thing that was most shocking as she looked at it.

"The roots don't seem very deep," she said. "They look very tiny and they look very shallow," Bennett said.

Arizona State University Geology professor Steven Reynolds said in an e-mail, that's true for many desert trees.

"Many desert trees want to soak up rainwater and so have shallow but widespread roots, easy to blow down," Reynolds wrote. 

Harper said we typically see mesquite trees that topple over.

"We give them too much water and they grow very, very fast and root system and the structure of the tree never really seem to catch up with the top growth on them," Harper said.

He adds, shallow watering by landscapers tend to make roots of these and others even more shallow.  Instead, do what's called deep watering -- watering for a longer period of time to get to the end of the roots.

"The water is going down where it needs to be below the two-foot area," he said.

People should have professionals thin some of the bigger and older trees so that the wind can kind of blow through it instead of grabbing the canopy like a sail and taking it down, according to Harper.

Perhaps the tips could've meant this one tree in Bennett's neighborhood, left standing.

"It makes me sad that I won't have that beautiful tree to look at anymore," Bennett said.