It has been almost two years since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita landed a one-two punch to the U.S., affecting lives and property. The timber industry did not escape damage from the two storms.

In Mississippi, Katrina alone damaged approximately 1.2 million acres of forestland. Some experts believe as much as 5.5 million acres of timberland was affected by both storms in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas.


Southern yellow pine weathers storms and market prices.

Species None Snapped Leaning Blown over
Loblolly 16.3% 75.9% 5.7% 2.0%
Slash 52.4% 38.1% 7.8% 1.7%
Longleaf 64.0% 8.9% 16.9% 10.2%

Richard Wallace, vice president of communications, Southern Pine Association, said there was tremendous impact from both Katrina and Rita to Southern yellow pine. “Quite a bit of timber was downed in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. But, it all has been salvaged and is back on the marketplace. Supplies are very good,” said Wallace, “although it is a sign of the times with depressed housing market, demand is down.”

Wallace said the biggest markets for Southern yellow pine include new residential construction and light commercial construction. “There is quite a promising export market to China, the Caribbean, as well as some European countries and Japan. China is probably our most active growing international market. About half of what our members make is pressure treated for the U.S. market for outdoor uses, such as decks, fences, and outdoor structures,” said Wallace.

The four species primarily classified as Southern pine, include longleaf (Pinus palustris); slash (Pinus elliottii); shortleaf (Pinus echinata), and loblolly (Pinus taeda). Southern yellow pine has a variety of uses, in addition to the ones mentioned, including heavy construction work, utility poles, shipbuilding, masts, exterior finish, flooring, dock work, decking, fence material, joinery, light construction, boxes, crates and pallets.

“Southern yellow pine is used in furniture, and in the crate-type furniture,” said Wallace. “Several retail outlets sell only solid Southern pine furniture. It has excellent properties for the furniture industry including machining and workability, and holding finishes.”

Southern pine’s oil and resin is very valuable, used to make products like turpentine.

Southern Pine

FAMILY NAME:The primary species known as southern yellow pine include Pinus palustris, Pinus echinata, Pinus taeda and Pinus elliottii of the Family Pinaceae.

COMMON NAMES: Southern pine, southern yellow pine, Florida longleaf, Florida yellow pine, Georgia yellow pine, slash pine, loblolly pine, shortleaf pine, American pitch pine, Gulf coast pitch pine, longleaf pitch pine, longleaf pine and longleaf yellow pine, Carolina pine, northern Carolina pine, meadow pine, salt water pine, spruce pine, she pitch pine, swamp pine, bassett pine, black pine and foxtail pine are among the common names of the four species.

HEIGHT/WEIGHT: Trees can grow to 100 feet or taller with diameters of 2 to 3 feet. Weight varies among species of southern pine. Average weight is 41 to 43 pounds per cubic foot. Resin can affect cutting surfaces.

PROPERTIES: Wood dries well with little degrade and small movement in service. Wood has high bending and crushing strengths, high stiffness, medium resistance to shock loads.

Dr. Glenn Hughes, extension forester, Mississippi State University Extension Service, is aware that hurricanes are a fact of life for the coastal states. He has studied the impact of Katrina on pine species in Mississippi and learned that not all pine species were affected equally by Katrina, a fact that may help landowners plan for the future. “An inventory of the damage done in Mississippi showed there was approximately $888-million worth of timber damage to all types of timber.” Hughes said there was quite a bit salvaged but some of the damage degraded the timber to the point that it could not be harvested. “An 11-inch pine tree might have sold for $20-$25 a ton pre-Katrina; if it got snapped during Katrina, it went from what we call chip-and-saw to pulp wood category, which pre-Katrina was $8-$10 a ton but because of the glut of material is probably now selling for $2 a ton. Our initial loss was from degrade of the material due to storm damage. For a lot of the big pines, the only use after the storm was for pulp wood.”

In addition to degrade, costs of logging increased, as the material was harder to get. “The conditions after the storm made it very dangerous for loggers and they had to work slower than they would normally. That reduces production, increases logging costs and affects what a landowner earns. If a tree snaps at 8 feet, the leaves continue to pump out moisture and this results in a loss of weight compared to what the tree weighed green. Timber is largely sold on a weight basis today.”

Hughes said that in Mississippi, tall pines used for utility poles are considered the Cadillac of the products and sell for $70 a ton. “Traditional saw timber pre-Katrina was $40 a ton but that price is down because of the new housing market downturn.”

Hughes was part of an interesting study of damage done to three species of pine (loblolly, slash and longleaf, in Mississippi on two pine plantations established in 1985. Shortleaf pine wasn’t prevalent in the area studied and so not part of the survey. Some of the results of the study are listed in a table.

“There is no way to hurricane- or wind-proof trees, but the data we collected from our study showed valuable information concerning wind damage and risk reduction based on species planted,” said Hughes. “Longleaf pine was found to be the most wind resistant of the bunch; slash was next and loblolly was the most susceptible. People who live in the vulnerable coastal areas might consider replanting with either of those species rather than loblolly pine.” Hughes study showed a difference in the amount of damage as well as type of damage. Southern pine is the most commercially important species in the state. “Of all pine products, it accounts for 65 to 70 percent of the value of all the Mississippi’s forest products.

Hughes said that storm-damaged pine supplies have been kept in wet beds to keep the material wet. “Dry wood is susceptible to insect damage, especially from the Southern pine sawyer.” Hughes said material put in wet beds needs to be used roughly within 18 months or the water would begin to degrade it. “We have a lot of material in wet decks. If landowners call and ask my opinion I tell them that if they can hold off on new cutting until 2008, demand should be greater due to a stronger housing market.”


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