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State's timber avoids major wind damage
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Tropical Storm Cindy and Hurricane Dennis, practically twins in their arrival dates and targeted areas, combined to dump as much as 8 inches of rain in some parts of Mississippi, but the bulk of the state's commercial trees withstood potentially damaging winds.
Glenn Hughes, forestry professor with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said most coastal areas were spared Dennis' wind damage. He speculated that east central Mississippi took a harder hit, but still damage was light.
"Hurricane Ivan in 2004 probably took out the trees that would have been susceptible to damage," Hughes said. "Damage from Dennis was limited to trees being pruned up a little."
Hughes said his greatest concern in forest settings are in areas that had been thinned recently because those trees are most subject to damage.
"It takes several years for thinned trees to become windfirm, or able to withstand strong winds," he said. "Smaller trees tend to bend in the wind, and the larger trees protect one another in tight plantings."
Hughes said landowners cannot make their trees hurricane-proof, but some have opted in recent years to plant longleaf pine, which tolerates high winds better than loblolly pine.
"Longleaf is more durable in weaker storms, but if something like Hurricane Camille hits, all bets are off," he said.
Excessive rains during a traditionally dry season can slow down harvests, but Hughes said delays should be brief because the heaviest amounts fell on sandy soils. Coupled with typical July heat, harvests should resume quickly.
"Cindy hit the coast harder than Dennis, with 7.12 inches in Pascagoula, 6.46 inches in Gulfport and 4.53 inches in Biloxi. The amount decreased inland," Hughes said. "Official rainfall amounts indicate that a few days later, Dennis dumped 3.18 inches in Meridian, 3.07 inches in Columbus, 1.67 inches in Tupelo and only 0.48 inches in Gulfport/Biloxi."
Bob Daniels, Extension forestry specialist, said these rainfall totals could explain why prices in these areas rose or held steady while the usual seasonal declines prevail statewide.
"The new May/June market report shows that while the statewide average prices for all forest products dropped in that period, some in South Mississippi increased," Daniels said. "Pine chip-n-saw and hardwood sawtimber prices increased in the southeast and Louisiana border counties."
Daniels said pine pulpwood prices held steady in the southeast and Louisiana border counties while hardwood pulpwood prices increased in the Louisiana border counties.
Daniels also said initial reports from aerial surveys near Mobile after Dennis indicated only about 5 percent damage to area forests.
Hughes noted that August to October is the most active and destructive part of hurricane season so he warned "we're not out of the woods" yet.
"Landowners should inspect their property after tropical storms or hurricanes and salvage fallen or damaged if necessary," Hughes said.