Ice storm could have lasting effects

Posted: Monday, January 10, 2011

FAIRBANKS — The freak ice storm that blanketed much of Alaska in November is long gone. But a University of Alaska Fairbanks forestry professor said the effects could last for years as wounded trees die and insect populations explode.

Glenn Juday spent much of December surveying forests in the Interior. He told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner birch trees were hit particularly hard by the three-day rain storm.

He said those damaged trees will be vulnerable this summer for insect invasions and disease, resulting in a possible banner year for pests.

“This event’s not over yet,” Juday said.

Juday reviewed the National Weather Service data after the Nov. 22-24 storm and said it was common to find a perfect recipe for ice accumulation: no falling snow, heavy precipitation and subfreezing temperatures.

Although the areas affected were patchy, they were also widespread. While spruce and aspen trees survived the storm largely intact, he said the damage to birch forests was obvious. The storm extended from Anchorage to the Brooks Range, and even reached elevations of as high as 6,000 feet.

Juday said previous weather events that resulted in snapped branches allowed some insects to more easily lay eggs in weakened trees. If insect-friendly weather arrives this spring, Juday said it will be accompanied by a population boom.

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