Kisatchie National Forest sustains major damage from Hurricane Laura

Hurricane Laura caused an estimated $70 million in fallen timber for the forest
Hurricane Laura caused an estimated $70 million in fallen timber for the forest.
Published: Sep. 8, 2020 at 4:23 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 8, 2020 at 6:57 PM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - Kisatchie National Forest’s Calcasieu Ranger District - that includes both Rapides and Vernon parishes - has sustained severe damage from Hurricane Laura. The entire district is closed to any forest activity - including recreation areas, hiking trails, and campgrounds. Hunting season could also be impacted this year, although the U.S. Forest Service says they’re working as quickly as possible to limit any impacts for hunters.

Local forest service staff along with about 100 crew members of the Southern Incident Management Gold Team have spent the last several days surveying the damage to the forest on the ground, by drone, and by helicopter. Currently, they estimate that $70 million dollars' worth of timber fell down during Laura. The teams are beginning to start the recovery process by clearing large trees off the roadways and even cutting their way into recreation areas.

“All this is closed. We had a tremendous amount of damage in this area, hundreds of trees down and we’ve been working diligently to get the trees off. We’ve done an initial assessment of the rec areas. Fortunately, a lot of our infrastructure like our bathrooms are okay but it’s going to take a lot of work to get the trees out and get everything back up to speed and get power back here. We’ve got crews coming in from other states to help us with this and we’re hoping that you know soon as possible we’ll have things up and running,” says district ranger Jonny Fryar. He adds, “We’re just leaving the assessment phase now and going to get into what we call recovery where we’re going to be out doing a lot of what we’re doing in here, cutting a lot of the trees out so we can get access. We’re looking, I don’t know a time frame I can say of when we’re going to be opening back all our trails and all our developed rec areas but we’re just working as fast as we can.”

Travis Cott, public information officer for the Gold team said, "Our crews are out on foot, out in vehicles. We’ve also utilized a drone from the national forest service. We’ve also utilized helicopters out of Texas to be able to do some aerial surveying when we first got in right after the storm hit.”

In addition to the Calcasieu district closures, all forest service roads are also closed until September 16 in the Kisatchie, Catahoula, and Winn districts.

The U.S. Forest Service is also working to find out how some of the endangered species that live in the forest were impacted. Right now, they’re working on replacing hundreds of homes for red-cockaded woodpeckers that were damaged when those trees fell during the storm.

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