Three years after Hurricane Michael, logging industry continuing long road to recovery

Published: Oct. 11, 2021 at 5:35 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Sunday marked the three-year anniversary of Hurricane Michael, a storm that wrecked havoc on the Florida panhandle’s logging industry.

Three years might seem like enough time for an industry to recover, but trees take several decades to grow.

A representative with the Florida Forest Service says the storm damaged about 10-15 years worth of wood supply and that kind of damage can’t be fixed overnight.

“It was a day that folks were impacted by will never forget,” FFS’ Ken Weber explained.

$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 2600 of those 3200 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 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.

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