The downed branch fills the entire street in the 1300-block of Stanley Avenue. Crashing down on top of vehicles, startling everyone, including Dominic Downs Wednesday afternoon as he and his wife were preparing to walk their dogs.

“The branch came down, right in front of us. We were standing right across the road and it took out the power lines. Scared the dogs,” Downs said.

It’s a phenomenon known as sudden limb failure, or sudden limb drop, according to Mike Evers, an arborist with Bartlett’s Tree Experts.

“The oaks will start dropping limbs this time of the year, so anywhere from July through to September,” Evers said.

In the City of Gardens, mature leafy trees line many of Victoria’s streets. But a closer look indicates many are not as healthy as they first appear.

“Most trees can withstand short periods of stress. But when you get prolonged periods of drought stress, that’s when trees really start to decline,” Evers said.

Flagging happens when green foliage turns brown. Many of the western red cedars in this hedge in the yard adjacent to St. Matthias Anglican church are dead or dying. Warden Marilyn Denton said they are marked with pink ribbons to be cut down.

“These trees are dead because of lack of water. And the water that would fall naturally is being sucked up by the bigger trees,” Denton said.

Drought-stressed trees are vulnerable to wind damage. According to B.C. Hydro, there are more trees adjacent to power lines on Vancouver Island than anywhere in North America. December’s wind storm resulted in record damage, much due to downed trees.

“But this is typical what you see on our evergreen trees on Vancouver Island when there is drought stress,” Evers said.

“People love trees here on the Island. That’s our business to look after them, and care for people’s trees. And people are very, very concerned,” Evers said.

As the forecast calls for little rain, the number of trees at risk may be increasing.

Mary Griffin