Winter storm could have long-lasting effects across the state

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Some damage from the ice storm is very obvious on landscapes across the county, but forestry experts are also concerned about what they can't see.

Some call it South Carolina's biggest cash crop. Forestry has an economic impact of about $17 billion every year. Ben Powell with Clemson Extension says everybody buys in.

"Managers, timber buyers, power companies, paper plants," explained Powell. "A large industry built around the pine tree."

But the recent ice storm has cut into the industry, and officials aren't even sure how deep the wound goes.

"The Forestry Commission is trying to get their head around that," said Powell. "And it's going to take some time."

Phil Hodge with Hodge's Tree Service is still cleaning up, more than a week after the ice storm ravaged Horry County's landscape.

"It's a lot of damage too," said Hodge. "Conway. places are bad too."

Raking away the storm's leftovers can be a long process.

"Eight hours or more," explained Hodge. "Depends if you can get enough equipment to get the job done."

The debris didn't just scatter over neighborhood yards and county acres, but it also affected history. The site of the first steam operated lumber mill in the Southeastern part of the United States, The Uppermill Plantation, felt its effects.

"Where hundreds of years of growing Live Oaks when it's so beautiful and trimmed," said Hodge. "It's ruining them. It's going to take years to come back."

Meanwhile, local forestry consultants say the damage they're seeing is up to $2,500 an acre. For those who use the acres for a living, it will have a lasting effect on business.

"An impact that happens today has a couple of decades worth of impact," said Powell.

Due to the amount of personnel available to work on surveying all 46 counties, it may be weeks before the SC Forestry Commission is able to put a dollar amount on the damage. But the commission is considering declaring a forestry disaster, which could bring in assistance money to help local landowners regrow.

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