Tornados and Flooding

This spring’s catastrophic tornado season continues at this writing, with the storm system that had already caused great loss of life and property now moving from Kansas and Oklahoma into Arkansas. In terms of damage to forest assets, the late April storms inflicted their worst damage in Alabama, with State Forester Linda Casey citing losses of “tens of thousands of acres of forests.” According to RISI’s May International Woodfiber Report, the effects of the storms, aggravated by the effects of the simultaneous record-breaking flooding, are both acute and long-term for industry operations in the key Mississippi Delta region—portending “lasting and varied effects,” in RISI’s words. International Paper closed its Vicksburg, Mississippi containerboard mill on May 8, “to prepare for the impending water from the Mississippi and Yazoo Rivers,” laying off most of the mill’s 298 employees; a May 21 update from the company indicated that the shutdown might last as long as six months, because of the need for extensive repairs following an unrelated explosion in a recovery boiler just prior to the flood.

“More broadly,” says RISI, the flooding has caused a reduction in rail and barge deliveries to mills in Mississippi and Louisiana as well as (unspecified) facility damage. In addition, RISI estimated that “sloppy harvesting conditions, especially in lower lying hardwood tracts” might last all summer.

The Alabama Department of Transportation has authorized a gross vehicle weight limit variance allowing five- or six-axle trucks working within areas of the state that experienced storm damage during April to haul up to 95,000 pounds, although with detailed restrictions on bridge access. Details and registration information are available from the Alabama Loggers Council’s Ray Clifton, [email protected], or 334-481-2130.