PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Ongoing drought conditions continue to stress trees in the Pacific Northwest which can lead to catastrophic problems during severe winter weather.

Oregon’s top researchers and arborists are holding a virtual conference this week to discuss the weather’s impact on the state’s trees. They are concerned with how drought damage is thinning forest canopies. This can result in terrible consequences when heavy rains arrive in winter since dry soil tends to repel water.

“The importance of canopy cover is not just for shade and beauty,” said Kristin Ramstad with the Oregon Department of Forestry. “The other thing we mentioned with rain is we want the precipitation to filter through the canopy cover, slowly hit the ground, let things recycle, decompose leaves — all that sort of thing. So when you remove all of that, of course, you are affecting the entire system.”

Thinning canopies can lead to more flooding and landslides. Weakened trees are also more susceptible to extreme winter weather like ice storms.

Ramstad said it’s important for people to water the trees in their yard, especially those under three years old. The key is to water the trees slowly, either with a drip hose or a very slow-running garden hose. Holes can also be drilled into a five-gallon bucket, filled with water and left near a tree’s trunk.