Sixteen years ago, Hurricane Katrina damaged large timber on farms in Tangipahoa Parish. Hurricane Ida helped finish the job.
Gaston Lanaux III, of Husser, recalled how some 15-year-old trees survived Hurricane Katrina, only to be taken down pretty badly by Hurricane Ida as 30-year-old trees.
“Anything 15 years and up that was on commercial forest land that was planted and thinned before Ida hit, those stands have been pretty much totally devastated,” he said.
Lanaux, is a professional forester of 52 years, having spent 16 years with Crown Zellerbach in multiple capacities and 36 years after as an independent consulting forester. He is a lifetime board member of Louisiana Forestry Association and past board president of the association.
The damage during Hurricane Katrina was mainly to large timber, he said, and that storm blew large strands of large pine trees. Unlike with Katrina, during Ida, a lot of small scattered trees as well as big ones went down.
“The oak trees are very shallow-rooted trees. They don’t make a deep root system that would anchor them to the ground, so oak trees are extremely dangerous, particularly large oak trees with lot of foliage on them,” he said. “Katrina and Ida both hit before the trees shed their leaves for the winter, so it’s just like a big sail out there, and that’s why these oaks went over.”
“The pine trees, the ones that are really dangerous, are the big ones,” he added. “They get the right puff of wind or small touch-down tornado, and those trees go down.”
The ground was fairly dry and firm before Katrina hit. Although some were blown over, most trees snapped, he said.
“This time, the ground was so wet that they just fell over,” he said.
Before Hurricane Ida made landfall, 82 inches of rain had already fallen in the Husser area this year. Ida brought over 20 more inches of rain to Lanaux’s trees, bringing the amount of rain this year well over 100 inches for the year, he said.
Hurricane Nicholas added more water to the area this week, soaking the ground around the fallen trees and inside the holes the trees’ root balls had left.
He admitted to never seeing a year of rain like this in all the time he has been keeping records of rainfall. He started in 1991.
Whitney Wallace, associate agent of LSU AgCenter, said the damaging effects of Hurricane Ida’s winds on damage, mortality and recovery of tree populations is being assessed.
Wallace stressed that Tangipahoa Parish took its fair share of damage from Hurricane Ida, which caused widespread damage to urban and rural areas.
“The LSU AgCenter projects the biggest agricultural economic losses will be from downed timber and destroyed infrastructure,” she said. “Many state agencies along with the USFS are working together to assess the total value lost for commercial timber.”
“For Tangipahoa Parish, right now I am seeing most of the severe damage from the Husser to Loranger area,” she said. “But we will know more once the timber damage assessments have been complete.”
“Because many forest landowners in Tangipahoa Parish are likely to be affected, the LSU AgCenter is holding an informational disaster recovery meeting tonight at the Tangipahoa Parish Fairgrounds in Amite,” she added.
The meeting for forest landowners will begin at 5:30 p.m. and will promptly end at 6:15 p.m. Agricultural producers will come in at 6:30 p.m. to learn about programs available and tips on how to being recovery.
To secure one of the 50 spots, call the AgCenter office. During the meeting, landowners will learn timber damage recovery tips and available resources. Agency representatives from the Farm Service Agency, NRCS, and LDAF will be present to increase knowledge on cost-share programs to help replant areas that were damaged.
As of Wednesday, Lanaux had yet to be able to safely go out and assess all the damage to his property, but he could see there were far too many oaks and pines down to count across his overall acreage. He lost a combination of trees pulled down from the roots and trees that snapped. Two stand-alone branches shot through his lodge roof like torpedoes. Many of the trees in the damaged stand were 85 years old, he said.
Among the trees he lost were longleaf pines close to 100 years old. They just fell over, he said.
Fallen trees have a limited shelf life as heat and insects can damage the wood after a few months, and mills will take only what is considered No. 2 grade lumber and better.
The timber industry completely changed since Katrina, he said. Few small loggers remain in the area because of economics and market conditions in the past decade. It is mostly loggers for industrial companies.
“Loggers are really limited by the economic conditions and fuel cost as to how far they can actually haul this to, and because we don’t have a lot of large local mills anymore, I’m afraid that a lot of timber on the ground is not able to be salvaged and delivered to saw mills,” Lanaux said. “A lot of it is just going to have to be cut up and taken someplace to be burned and removed from people’s yard.”