Between October 10th and 12th, Hurricane Michael damaged more than five million acres of forest throughout Florida, Georgia, and Alabama, according to the region's forestry officials.
Michael, the third-most intense hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. mainland and the strongest storm on record in the Florida panhandle, caused at least $1.6 billion in timber losses, officials told the Wall Street Journal.
In Georgia, damage estimates equal roughly $374 million. Alabama's loss is still being tallied, but the state has identified more than 42,000 acres of moderate to total loss.
Chad Nimmer, a Georgia lawmaker who works in logging, told the WSJ that growers will be fortunate to salvage 20 percent of the damaged trees, and those that make it to mills might fetch just 20 to 50 percent of their pre-storm value.
Even still-standing trees might not be able to be utilized fully. Wood hit by extreme winds usually isn't good enough to be used for lumber or other forest products, so it's more likely to be pulped or mulched - which pays considerably less.
A forester who owns 8,000 acres of damaged forest in the Florida Panhandle told the WSJ some of the pine lost could have gone for $60 a ton as utility poles before the storm. But now it could only be worth $2 or $3 a ton as pulp.
Most of the region's landowners do not carry insurance on timber since it isn't cost effective. Depending on the amount of timber investment, how long the trees have been growing, and whether money is spent replanting, those affected may be eligible for casualty loss deductions on their federal income taxes.
Much of the losses were in southern yellow pine, which is often sawed into lumber and used in particleboard. Its one of the region's biggest agricultural products.
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