Forest Service examines timber damage caused by Hurricane Laura

Hurricane Laura caused timber damage in portions of Deep East Texas
Updated: Sep. 14, 2020 at 12:51 PM CDT
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LUFKIN, Texas (KTRE) - It’s been nearly three weeks since Hurricane Laura made landfall and left behind damage in Deep East Texas. The effects are still being felt in many areas of the Piney Woods, including one aspect many may not think about, timber.

“Timber is the No. 1 manufacturing in East Texas. There’s a lot of business and revenue that flows around timber production in East Texas‚" said Jacob Donellan, the head of Texas A&M Forest Service’s East Texas Operations. “Hurricane Rita was devastating to East Texas timber, so we expected something similar from Hurricane Laura.”

Donellan says because Hurricane Laura tracked further east, the damage was not as significant as they feared.

“As we did our timber damage assessment, we noticed the damage was very scattered and light across the landscape,” he said.

Donellan says because the damage was sporadic the Texas A&M Forest Service was unable to make an exact determination on the number of acres damaged by Hurricane Laura. But using data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Forest Inventory and Analysis, they estimate about 210,000 acres of timberland in of eastern Newton County and the county due south, experienced Category 1 winds: about 74 to 95 miles per hour.

“Which is still a significant amount of land," Donellan said. "Looking through that we are working with those landowners in those areas where we did see the damage. But the most significant winds even thankfully in that 210,000 acres, saw relatively light and scattered damage.”

An additional 850,000 acres of East Texas timberland experienced tropical force storm winds; about 39 to 73 miles per hour.

“Most of the counties that were affected are going to be Newton, Jasper, Orange, a little bit of Angelina, a little bit of Nacogdoches, and Sabine," Donellan said. "Those were the focus areas of most of the damage that we saw.”

The Texas A&M Forest Service estimates 9.4 million cubic feet of timber was potentially damaged by Hurricane Laura, but say that is less than half the volume of timber typically lost to weather here annually.

“Fortunately, being on the western side of the storm, we got less winds and less damage and that’s not to minimize those individual landowners that experienced loss and some significant loss on their property," Donellan said. "We’re working with those landowners to assess that damage and work with ways to try to help them manage their timber losses and those sorts of things.”

Landowners who lost timber from storms click here to see what assistance may be available through a federal program via the Texas A&M Forest Service’s website.

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