Winter storms this month left parts of Texas with downed limbs and split trees and with winter just starting, it could happen again. Texas A&M Forest Service reminded homeowners to be careful with damaged trees. Trunks and branches are heavy and should be considered dangerous until they can be brought to the ground. Even limbs as small as 2 inches can cause injury if they fall on someone. The only deaths from Hurricane Claudette that hit South Texas in July 2003 were from falling tree limbs. "It is a common occurrence to have people survive storms and natural disasters only to be injured while cleaning up afterwards," said Pete Smith, state urban forestry program manager. "We want people to be as safe as possible while dealing with damaged and fallen trees." Take caution when pruning small branches and leave the heavy chain-saw work to professionals. Look up for broken limbs that may fall, and look down to avoid fallen power lines. Any damage to limbs within 10 feet of power lines needs the work of a professional arborist. They have the equipment and knowledge needed and are usually listed in the telephone book under "Tree Service." Ask for certification through the International Society of Arboriculture. Be cautious of tree services soliciting door to door. A qualified arborist should have workers' compensation insurance, liability insurance and experience in the tree care industry. If their services include tree topping, beware. Tree topping is the worst treatment for trees because it reduces the amount of leaves the tree needs to recover from the storm on its own. Check with city or county officials to see if they are providing assistance with disposal of tree debris from private property. For further assistance, contact the local county extension agent.