Ice storm and ice break in Slovenia

Slovenia has been hit by a big environmental catastrophe in the form of ice rain (sleet). Houses, cars, power lines, roads, trees and everything else is encased in a thick layer of ice and it will be a long time before power is restored to Slovenian households (projections say even more than 2 weeks in the most remote locations). The impacts that people feel the most are on the power grid. Our region (Podpeč-Preserje) lost electricity 2 days ago and it hasn’t been back since. Even the mobile network is down in the area. The second most important interruptions are fallen trees, which are blocking roads at a faster rate than servicemen can remove them.

Photo: Daniel Šabič

Willow branches hang even lower because of the ice. Photo: Daniel Šabič

Human worries aside, the biggest catastrophe is happening in Slovenia’s forests. According to a statement from the Slovenia Forest Service, total damaged forest area by the ice break is 500.000 ha, which is 42 % of total forest area. They state that the total volume of damaged trees is 3,5 million m. My opinion is that this number should not yet be taken seriously – it is too early to make volume estimates and we should definitely wait for field checks for a more accurate number.

I have taken at look at forests in my vicinity and the damage is definitely extensive. In some stands up to 50 % of trees are damaged in some way, but the average damage seems a bit lesser. We have to hope that we don’t get heavy snowfall or windy conditions, which could double or triple the damage by further burdening that trees that are encased in ice. The weather forecast for the coming days is quite favorable and I hope that it won’t change.

Our first priority for the future is quite clear – we have to assist the rehabilitation of forests by removing felled and damaged trees while keeping additional damages to a minimum. But the look into the near future is not very optimistic. Slovenia is going to face a big downfall in forest revenues (at least in the long run) and probably a major downturn in forest health (especially if this summer will be warm). However, this catastrophe could also mean an opportunity for sector financing the Slovenian state and big businesses play their cards right. But my short-term memory makes me doubt that the opportunity is going to be taken advantage of.

Spruce needles encased in ice. Photo: Daniel Šabič

Spruce needles encased in ice. Photo: Daniel Šabič

Update (16:50, 3.2.2014): Slovenian Forestry Institute also issued a statement, which focuses on the damage done to forest ecosystems and their beneficial funcitions. They also emphasize the dangers for forest workers, who will conduct operations in forest restoration.

Update 2 (8:45, 4.2.2013): Slovenian Ministry of Agriculture and Environment issued a statement.

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