By Brad Withrow-Robinson, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension, Benton, Linn and Polk Counties
While most residents of the Willamette Valley and Cascades foothills experienced unseasonably cold temperature in mid November, residents and landowners in the central Coast Range endured a serious ice storm. This was not a region-wide storm, but sure packed a punch in certain areas, with some people saying the damage caused may be as bad as or worse than that caused by the infamous Columbus Day Storm. I have not heard of any additional damage from a freezing rain event on December 1.
The main area affected is centered around Blodgett and Burnt Woods, stretching north through Kings Valley into Polk County and south to the flanks of Marys Peak. The McDonald Forest was shut down for nearly a week due to falling ice, limbs and whole trees, closing roads throughout the research forest and creating hazards to workers and recreationists. Crews and equipment are working to reopen forest roads throughout the area.
Ice ½ to ¾ inch thick brought down branches, broke out tops and uprooted whole trees in rural residential as well as forested areas. Although damage was irregular and uneven, stands of all types and age classes were affected. An aerial survey by the Oregon Department of Forestry indicated that roughly 6,600 acres of significant damage (less the 10% of trees damaged to over 30% of trees damaged), although I have seen some stands where over half the trees were damaged. Damage seemed worse in draws dominated by hardwoods. Here is a map of the storm damage distribution.
Of course, we have been here before, at least to some degree. Wind and snow storms come through from time to time knocking things down and making a mess. This creates hazards for people and ruins or reduces the value of damaged trees and stands, and may cause forest health issues such as rot or beetle outbreaks down the road. Downed wood can serve as a nursery for beetles if abundant and large enough which may then lead to damage to healthy trees, and broken tops and other wounds may lead to heart rots. The ODF has just released a good discussion of possible effects on forest health following the November 2014 storm, including some guidelines on actions.
But right now, many people will focus their efforts on cleanup. The Oregon Department of Forestry also developed a webpage a couple years back about dealing with storm damage that is aimed mostly at residential situations, but it may be worth a look. It includes links to other articles such as “tree first aid after a storm”
Be sure to be extra vigilant whenever you are doing anything in the woods after a storm since it can create an abundance of hazards including loose tops or branches hung up overhead, kick back-inducing tangles of branches, or spring-loaded limbs and trunks on the ground. If cleaning up, please review saw safety, wear all recommended safety gear and use all caution. Caution should include prudent assessment of the situation and of your own skills and ability. And as we say in the advice business, “be sure to seek professional help” when needed. Although I doubt Ann Landers was ever referring to loggers, it is nonetheless sound advice.