Hurricane Rita caused unbelievably extensive damage to the Angelina National Forest. The storm pulled up hundreds of hardwood and pine trees from their roots. Many of the trees that are still standing are dead and will probably be knocked down when the next storm hits.
Ranger Karen Tinkle said, "We have major damage to the timber and to the recreation facilities here. Across the district, we know of at least 6,000 acres that suffered this type of extensive damage."
Table tops, benches, and other reminders of the Caney Creek recreation area can still be seen throughout the forest a month after the storm. It'll be years before the forest is the way it was. Even then, it'll still be an unstable environment, and not just for campers.
"We have cluster sites, which are for our red-cockaded woodpecker - one of our endangered species - that have been damaged. We have eagle nest sites that have been damaged or impaired. We also have cultural resource sites that are damaged, and so this is a pretty extensive incident for the Angelina National Forest."
All five campgrounds in the Angelina National Forest are closed. Hiking trials are also shut down for the rest of the year.
The forest will need a complete overhaul. All fallen trees will be removed and leaning trees will be assessed for safety reasons before the area is once again completely operational.
Seventy-five percent of the trees destroyed at the Caney Creek recreation site were at least 35 years old. The U.S. Forest Service hopes to plant many new trees in that area.