DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A 40-foot elm tree in Carrollton is the latest victim of the drought currently hitting North Texas.

The tree fell Saturday evening, but while the loss of the tree is disappointing for Jan Harmon, the fact the tree fell on her handicap-accessible van is threatening her independence.

The 62-year-old Carrollton homeowner has multiple sclerosis, and has to use a wheelchair to get around, making the van a necessity.  “It’s the only way of leaving home, other than in an ambulance, which I prefer not to even think about.”

She says the van is her lifeblood.  “I want to and need to be able to get around to the places I need to go and sometimes the places I want to go… I was hoping to be well enough to be able to go to church Sunday morning for the first time in a very long time, and this happened Saturday night…so, I hate to say it, but it kinda put a dent in the van and a dent in my plans.”

She says with the lack of rain she had been watering the tree, but didn’t know it would be too little, too late.  “I never expected with it looking as green and healthy on the top, that it would be so dead and disconnected from the roots– so we were watering dead roots, I guess.”

Harold Spiegel with Preservation Tree Services says in spite of green foliage the tree was already in trouble, and the drought was the final straw.  “These roots are very brittle, they’re white, powdery… you can break ’em up quite easily.”  He says they’re seeing more root problems this year.  “We’re seeing a lot of problems like this this year… and we’re going to see problems coming on for quite some time.”

There is one large tree still standing in Harmons’ yard, but she wants to have it taken down before it can fall down on her house.

“I don’t want to lose the house, so i’ve been praying since Saturday night that God would keep that tree upright until we can take it down.”

Experts say your sprinkler system may not be enough to save your trees during drought conditions, and that hand watering may be necessary.

Spiegel says Trees generally absorb water through a root system roughly 18 inches underground, spreading out from the tree.  He says planting trees near concrete and driveways can hamper the ability of the roots to absorb water.

He says there are ways you can spot a tree in trouble.  “If the soil around the base of a tree starts to bulge, there’s a good chance that it’s leaning and that could signal a weakened root system.  Branches dying on one side of a tree may suggest that the roots are not taking in enough water.”

He also gave CBS 11 a list of tips for watering:

We often believe our sprinkler systems will handle the demands of the trees.  This may not be so in our current situation, considering the deficiency in rainfall and excessively high temperatures of the spring and summer.  Rainy periods generally water deeply, and our sprinklers supplement the needed moisture.

How do I give my tree water?

For young trees planted in the last three years, you must water the root-ball. It is unlikely that a sufficient quantity of roots has grown into the surrounding soil to use the method we suggest for established trees.  Position the nozzle of the hose on top of the root ball.  Allow water to saturate the soil at a slow drip in the vicinity of the nozzle.  Move the nozzle to several locations atop the root ball and repeat saturation.  This type of watering should not be necessary more than once a week while the heat lasts and the rain stays scarce.  DO NOT over-water.  Probe the soil with rod or dig small hole with hand trowel to determine conditions within the root-ball.

Established trees can best be watered by circling the tree trunk with a soaker hose at a position of approximately one-half the distance between the trunk and the furthest reaches of the branches (drip-line).  DO NOT water at the base of the tree trunk.  It may be appropriate to move the hose to several positions within this zone, depending on the area to be covered.  Water should be allowed to spread out on the soil surface and soak the zone.  Again, one time per week should be sufficient as above.  DO NOT over-water.

Remember to Mulch Bare Soil