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Most Trees Endure Hurricane Georges
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Hurricane winds took their toll on South Mississippi forests and urban trees, but the price was not as high as some feared.
"Most forest land and landscape trees dodged the bullet from Hurricane Georges," said Dr. Glenn Hughes, forestry specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service. "Of course, if your are one of the homeowners who lost a treasured tree in your yard, you may not feel so lucky."
Hughes, who is based in Ellisville, said the hurricane-force winds apparently decreased quickly after landfall.
"Inland counties saw more damage from straight line winds that came through in a storm last June than from Hurricane Georges," Hughes said. "According to reports from aerial surveys, most timber losses will be insignificant and landowners will be better off taking the loss than trying to market the damaged trees and the undamaged trees around them."
Hughes said while the number of urban trees lost may be lower than it could have been, trees can be as much as 10 percent of the value of the property.
"It's not unheard of for a tree to be valued at $15,000," Hughes said. "Homeowners will need to find a certified appraiser to assess the value of the tree before the storm to file the loss on a tax form or to have insurance provide for direct replacement of the tree."
The greater the forestry investment, the more important role a registered forester should play. Appraisers will make their assessments based on factors such as the species, condition and location of the tree or trees.
"For tax purposes, landowners need to document the catastrophic event and the losses. Save a copy of the local newspaper to document the hurricane and take pictures to show the actual property damage before cleanup efforts begin," Hughes said.
Before Hurricane Georges, Hughes said trees were experiencing drought stress and increased bark beetle activity. The saturated soils are expected to limit harvesting on certain tracts of land for the short-term.
"Timber remains a good investment, particularly in Mississippi. Using a registered forester and an accountant will minimize losses from hurricanes and other natural disasters and increase the profitability of forest land in the future," Hughes said.