3 Years After Hurricane Michael Devastated the Florida Panhandle, Logging Industry Recovery is Still Ongoing

Sunday, October 10, 2021 marked the three-year anniversary of Hurricane Michael’s devastation of the Florida panhandle’s logging industry. Because trees take several decades to grow and mature, three years is hardly enough time for the industry to have recovered. The Florida Forest Service (FFS) estimates that Hurricane Michael damaged approximately 10-15 years worth of timber supply — an amount of damage that cannot be fixed quickly.

FFS’ Ken Weber said, “It was a day that folks were impacted by will never forget.” $1.3 billion and 72 million tons of timber were lost in a matter of hours.

Weber says private landowners were hit the hardest by the destruction. “Little did we know when this thing came up, what it would do to the forest community in this area,” he said. “You know, family farms that have been in generations passed down to generations.”

Federal funds have helped some of these landowners cover up to 40% of their losses, allowing them to restart their lives and reforest their land. About 3,000 individuals have applied for this funding. “We have processed over 2,600 of those 3,200 applications, and there’s about $140 million already given out to these landowners,” Weber added.

In the meantime, some lumber mills have had to haul wood from outlying counties that were not impacted by Michael and some landowners have diversified their products to shift away from relying heavily on logging.

Weber estimates it will take 10-15 years to see real recovery in the industry. “I think they’re just getting through it, just kind of month-to-month, day-by-day,” he said.

The Federal government allocated $380 million to aid those who experienced timber loss due to Hurricane Michael, but that’s only a fraction of the estimated $1.3 billion that the industry lost.

FEA compiles the Wood Markets News from various 3rd party sources to provide readers with the latest news impacting forest product markets. Opinions or views expressed in these articles do not necessarily represent those of FEA.
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Three years after Hurricane Michael, logging industry continuing long road to recovery