$1.3 billion in timber losses in north Florida from Hurricane Michael

TALLAHASSEE Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - The trees taken down by Hurricane Michael have done more than destroy homes and take down power lines.

They've also dealt a serious blow to the timber industry.

Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam says the estimated value of timber damage in Florida due to Hurricane Michael is $1.3 billion, spread out over three million acres of forest.

“This is a catastrophic loss to the forest industry in the Florida Panhandle,” said Putnam. “We are committed to helping Florida recover from this devastating storm and will continue to work closely with the agriculture industry on hurricane-related damage assessments.”

The eleven counties impacted are some of the top timber-producing in the state, which includes: Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Leon, Liberty, Wakulla and Washington. Forest products manufacturing facilities, such as pulp-mills, saw-mills and pellet and Oriented Strand Board manufacturing also sustained damage.

As of Friday, the Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) was in the lowest ranking for wildfire threat across most of the Panhandle thanks to rain from Michael. But as trees taken down by Michael rot, there's another threat lurking.

“As the downed forest debris dries, the potential for wildfire conditions increase,” said Jim Karels, State Forester and Director of the Florida Forest Service. “It is critical for the Florida Forest Service to continue clearing trees and hurricane debris from roadways to reestablish fire lines and accessibility to timberlands.”