Storm Darwin blew down up to 7.5 million trees, task force finds

5,000 to 7,000 hectares of forest felled, mostly in Munster

 Minister of State for forestry Tom Hayes said most of the fallen  wood could be salvaged and  sawmills had ample capacity to process the fallen trees over the next eight to 10 months.      Photograph: Brian Gavin/Press 22

Minister of State for forestry Tom Hayes said most of the fallen wood could be salvaged and sawmills had ample capacity to process the fallen trees over the next eight to 10 months. Photograph: Brian Gavin/Press 22

Wed, Mar 5, 2014, 01:02



It has been estimated that up to 7.5 million trees have fallen in forests following the severe storm on February 12th, according to early indications from the forestry industry.

The Windblow Taskforce, set up by the Department of Agriculture to assess the damage done from Storm Darwin, has estimated that between 5,000 and 7,000 hectares of forest were blown down, mostly in Munster.

The Department of Agriculture’s forest service said it was very hard to estimate the number of fallen trees but it could be as high as 7.5 million.

Donal Whelan, technical director of the Irish Timber Growers Association, put the figure at between five and seven million trees. His group is a member of the taskforce and has been monitoring the damage in the private sector. He said the public would not be aware of the extent of the damage because much of it was in forests, away from the public view.

“It sounds like a huge figure and it is a lot of trees but it’s still a very small percentage of our total forest area,” he said. It represented less than 1 per cent of the forest area, he added, and approximately 1 per cent of the forest volume.

The Department of Agriculture said the affected trees were “mainly recently thinned Sitka spruce but we also have reports for lodgepole pine and broadleaf forests that suffered windblow”.

Mr Whelan said the southwest and south bore the brunt of the storms. Other areas were affected, such as Co Laois, where Stradbally Hall lost hundreds of trees, including many of the trees on its yew tree walk.

Shannon Airport recording a maximum gust of 160km/h on February 12th.

Minister of State for forestry Tom Hayes, who chairs the taskforce, said he fully understood “the shock and anguish experienced by forest owners whose forests have been blown over by the recent storm”. Most of the wood could be salvaged, he added. Sawmills had ample capacity to process the fallen trees over the next eight to 10 months.

He recommended that forest owners study a guidance note produced by the taskforce which gives advice on safely harvesting and selling fallen trees.