Southern Storms

Georgians may not realize the extent of the damage to the National Forest that this year’s tornadoes have caused. Besides the extensive damage to in areas such as Ringgold, Lake Burton and numerous Georgia communities, many of which have been extensively reported, little has been reported on forest damage. The tornados unleashed a tremendous destructive power to the Chattahoochee and Oconee National Forest across North Georgia.

The National Forest Service estimates that more than 2,000 acres are extensively damaged. The vastness of the destruction in some areas has yet to be determined, simply because crews cannot get into the area.

TORNADO ALLEYS. Many roads in the Georgia National Forests are still closed after the heavy destruction inflicted by the April tornadoes. (Photos by Mitch Cohen in Boggs Creek Campground, courtesy National Forest Service.)
TORNADO ALLEYS. Many roads in the Georgia National Forests are still closed after the heavy destruction inflicted by the April tornadoes. (Photos by Mitch Cohen in Boggs Creek Campground, courtesy National Forest Service.)

Some areas have been closed since the storms, including Chattahoochee River Road north of Helen; Boggs Creek Road in Lumpkin County; and Timson Creek Road in Rabun County. Just open last week was the east end of Tray Mountain Road in White County. The trail at Helton Creek Falls has been reopened, but the observation deck at the end is closed. The observation deck at Keown Falls is closed indefinitely until repairs can be made. Trails in much of the Forest Service land have downed trees. However, many areas severely damaged have been re-opened after crews cleared the areas.

Altogether, more than 80 miles of roadways are still closed from the storm.

George Bain, forest supervisor, says that the Forest Service will be conducting timber sales where there were downed trees with significant commercial quality. Some of the work will be with contracted firms, and other work will be by Forest Service personnel, Bain says.

The Forest Service is working to make as many of the commercial downed trees available to local industry as is feasible, according to guidelines in the forest Land Management Plan. Because of the location and type of damage, it is expected to take longer than normal to remove, causing some areas to remain closed this recreation season and even into next year, officials predict.

Bain adds: “There is tremendous damage at Boggs Creek, but the damage is so thick, that we don’t have a good idea how extensive it is. If there is damage to the camping areas and toilets, we will have to contract that out for repair.” Other type of damage, besides areas with trees falling across them, include clogged culverts and water damage.

Bain urges the public “to exercise extreme caution when traveling forest roads in the area where there is tornado damage. ”

The most popular hiking trail, Appalachian Trail from Springer Mountain to the North Carolina border, apparently suffered little damage from the storms, and remains open. However, Logan Turnpike near the Appalachian Trail in White County, is blocked from tornado damage. Other trails closed include the Town Creek OHV Trail System near Greenville and the Ocmulgee Bluff Equestrian Trail in Jasper County.

Meanwhile, the Forest Service is assessing damage to the area. Bain says that many areas in the National Forest will be cleared of debris, especially if commercial timber can be salvaged. “Other places won’t, if it is not easily logable ground, or if it would required road construction, or have steep ground to work in and equipment cannot get in.”

To see some of the damage from photos of the Forest Service, go to:

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chattoconeenf/sets/72157626514458743
  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chattoconeenf/with/5684257370
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Elliott Brack

Elliott Brack

Elliott Brack is a native Georgian and veteran newspaperman. He published the weekly Wayne County Press for 12 years; was for 13 years the vice president and general manager of Gwinnett Daily News, and for 13 years was associate publisher of the Gwinnett section of The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. He now publishes, in retirement, Web sites on Gwinnett County, http://www.gwinnettforum.com, and Georgia news, http://www.georgiaclips.com.