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Drone video shows Vernon unit of Kisatchie National Forest sustained major damage from Hurricane Laura

More than 16,000 acres of timber in Vernon Parish was heavily damaged
Published: Sep. 11, 2020 at 6:01 PM CDT
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VERNON PARISH, La. (KALB) - Drone video taken by the U.S. Forest Service shows the extensive damage to the Vernon unit of the Kisatchie National Forest.

“Timber is down everywhere,” says Jim Caldwell, public affairs officer for the U.S. Forest Service. “We have about 70 million dollars' worth of timber on the ground. It looks like an atomic bomb went off.”

The damage is breathtaking. More than 16,000 acres of timber in Vernon Parish was heavily damaged by Hurricane Laura.

“In some places, there are a lot more trees on the ground than left standing and we will be replanting that for years to come.”

Four of the Kisatchie National Forest’s five ranger districts sustained damage from the storm, with the Calcasieu Ranger District that encompasses Rapides and Vernon Parishes sustaining the most extensive damage.

“We’ve been up with drones and helicopters surveying the area. It’s something that you almost never see,” adds Caldwell.

The drone videos show damage to the Endero Trail and Fullerton areas in Vernon Parish, part of the thousands of acres the U.S. Forest Service has been mapping by air over the last two weeks as they continue the damage assessment.

“We’ll be slower to open the Vernon Parish side because the damage is so intense there.”

For now, the Kistachie National Forest is closed through at least September 16. Once the forest is safe, it will begin reopening and any salvageable timber will be sold, with the money going back to the U.S. Treasury.

“We will recover. We’re working on that and our goal is to have all of those sites very soon,” adds Caldwell.

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