Trees Suffer in '98 Ice Storms

By Guglielmo, Janine | American Forests, Summer 1998 | Go to article overview

Trees Suffer in '98 Ice Storms


Guglielmo, Janine, American Forests


Officials say it could be months before they have a definitive tally of the destruction wreaked by the January ice storm that toppled life as Northeasterners knew it. The storm claimed more than 20 lives and racked up damage totals that included more than 50 percent of Maine's forested areas and caused one Canadian city to redirect its snowplows to clear away trees.

"This storm was one of the bigger natural forest events we've seen this century," says Chuck Gadzick, director of Maine's Forest Service (MFS).

The storm coated trees in parts of the U.S. and Canada with a deadly crust of ice two to three inches thick. Hardest hit were New England, northern New York, Quebec, eastern Ontario, and Canada's Atlantic Provinces.

In Maine, 11.3 million acres - more than half the state's forested areas - were affected, with half suffering moderate to severe damage. More than 400 municipalities reported tree damage, and MFS estimates a loss of more than $300 million from downed timber.

Both ornamentals, which are particularly ill-suited to Maine's rugged climate, and indigenous species took a beating. Softwoods such as pine, spruce, and fir fared better, reports Gadzik.

"Where the damage was light, just the most vulnerable trees suffered; where it was heaviest, they all suffered," Gadzik says. But he cautions against generalizing. "Each species reacts differently. For example, sugar maple will rebuild slower than other maples. It's going to take a while to assess the damage."

Canada's forests met a similar fate: 70,000 trees were killed on Mount Royal in Montreal; 30,000 100-year-old trees were destroyed in urban Kingston; and an estimated 39,000 Ottowan trees will require life-sustaining surgery. …

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