More from the “Never Before have we Seen” Scene

September 5, 2011

Milwaukee  Journal-Sentinel:

During nearly 50 years in the logging business, Max Ericson has seen trees – lots of them – blown down by the wind. What took place this summer in parts of Wisconsin’s North Woods, though, shocked him.

“I’ve never seen our forests so devastated as they are now,” said Ericson, owner of Ericson Logging in Minong. “It’s going to impact the timber industry for a least a couple generations.”

Across a swath of northwestern Wisconsin, an estimated 2 million cords of wood – $160 million worth by one estimate – are on the ground, blown down during a severe thunderstorm in July.

“We’ve had blow-downs before, just nothing this size,” said Henry Schienebeck, a third-generation logger and executive director of the Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association in Rhinelander.

The amount of wood on the ground is about what the state’s loggers usually cut in a year, Schienebeck said.

“If a tornado hits, a tornado is a half-mile to a mile wide and two to three miles long,” Ericson said. “Then it lifts and it’s done.

“This went on for miles.”

The huge number of trees in northern Wisconsin makes the region vulnerable to severe thunderstorm winds, and timber blow-downs occur often in the area.

“But not to this degree,” said Rick Hluchan, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service forecast office in Duluth, Minn., which provides forecast coverage for northwestern Wisconsin. “It’s been awhile since we’ve had winds this bad.”

Weather Service meteorologists used a combination of radar images and damage surveys done from the air and on the ground to determine that wind gusts in the storm were greater than 100 mph.


2 Responses to “More from the “Never Before have we Seen” Scene”

  1. witsendnj Says:

    Determining the speed of the wind by surveying the damage is putting the cart before the horse. The trees are blowing over in such massive unexpected and unexplained numbers, because they are dying. They are dying because air pollution – yep, that same ozone that Obama just refused to tighten regulations on – is toxic to vegetation.

    The same extreme tree damage occurred up and down the East Coast from Irene, perplexing many, since the winds WERE measured, and they just weren’t strong enough to account for the actual damage.

    Wake up people! Trees of all ages, species and locations are falling over, their branches are breaking off, bark is splitting and oozing, leaves started turning early color in midsummer – or just brown – and were falling off before Irene. Conifers are thin and transparent. They all have one thing in common – the composition of the atmosphere. The nitrogen cascade – reactive nitrogen that produces ozone from sources like transportation and power emissions and fertilizer – is, according to Dr. Townsend of the U. of Colorado, “the biggest environmental disaster that nobody has heard of (

    And don’t forget – scientific research has demonstrated in many studies that plants weakened by ozone are more likely to be fatally attacked by insects, disease and fungus. Trees allocate fewer carbohydrates to their root system when battling ozone absorption by their foliage, and hence more likely to fall over.

    See this post about the tree damage from Irene:

    And Peter anytime you want to break this story let me know if I can help. The evidence of overall tree decline – in forests, suburbs and cities, is so overwhelming it’s really time the climatologists started incorporating the loss of carbon sink in their calculations.


  2. otter17 Says:


    One can only hope that this type of thing is just a freak event, not part of some trend. The bark beetle and fire feedbacks are bad enough.

    There may be some surprises around the bend, though, during this global climate experiment?

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