Ice Storm (Jan 1998)

I am collecting various press releases and articles about the aftermath of the storm. I am particularly interested in the long term environmental impact, and possible human involvement in making the effects of the storm much worse than it needed to be.

If you have other releases, please Email me at:

press release communiqu=E9

for immediate release:
January 15 1997


A preliminary evaluation of some of the regions forests impacted by the recent ice-storm reveals that forest ecosystems are not as seriously devastated as initial reports claim.

Forests have evolved and survived natural disasters for thousands of years .. Extreme events such as Eastern Ontario's and Quebec's recent ice storm which stripped limbs off trees and left millions without electricity is no exception.

Trees may have incurred structural damage, but forests with a closed canopy have survived relatively unscathed. An evaluation in the Outaouais following the storm revealed that approximately 10-20% of the forest's canopy biomass was stripped, experts say.

Anthropogentic landscape alterations, such as urban and suburban infrastructures, are thought to have exacerbated damage to forests fragmenting the continuity of former woodlands and creating a larger percentage of forest edge. Most "damage" occurred primarily within the forest's periphery where mature trees are exposed to wind and lack the support of a sufficient understory.

Landscaped urban parks, residential properties and artificially thinned or "managed" woodlots such as sugar maple bush appear to be the most damaged.

These sites are dominated by "open-grown trees"; reduced competition for sunlight, by the absence of a surrounding forest induces them to maximizes their leave's surface area by spreading branches outward, rather than straight up which occurs in a naturally evolving forest ecosystem. Limbs grown outward and horizontal from the trunk accumulate heavy ice and snow lending them prone to breakage.

Consequently, most structural damage in Eastern Ontario and Quebec was experienced by artificially planted, ornamental, and landscaped trees.

Of real concern, however, is the possible reaction by residents fearing that surviving trees present threat to property or public safety. Many standing trees will be cut despite only suffering temporary aesthetic damage. It is feared a second wave of tree removal by over-zealous chain-saw welding home-owners could cause equal if not more damage then the storm's initial assault. Already hundreds of thousands of additional trees representing thousands of acres of cleared forest have been cut to supply relief victims with emergency supplies of fire wood, and to replace downed power lines.

Homeowners should be encouraged that most of the damage to their trees is only temporary. An unnecessary backlash against nature could unleash more problems by further opening up the landscape, leading to an even greater loss to our natural environment.

For more information please contact:
Ian Huggett, Eco-Watch at (819) 684-5342

January 27 1998

A Post Storm Evaluation On Forest Ecosystems To Determine The Influence Of Stand Characteristics And Landscape Variables On Structural Damage To Trees

Very little research has been conducted on the short and long term impacts to forest ecosystem subject to catastrophic events, or natural disasters such as the recent ice-storm that struck Eastern Ontario and Quebec between January 5-10 1998.

The following report attempts to highlight some of the potential ramifications or effects this storm will have on ecosystem functioning, why certain areas were impacted greater than others, and what influences the ice-storm had on resident wildlife populations. Since there remains a scarcity of literature on this topic this account is based on anecdotal evidence primarily using two study areas where base line data is already available for comparison.

The Quebec Ministry of Natural Resources, which is in charge of managing public land in Quebec attempted to a conduct a post-storm evaluation during the week of January 19 1998. The purpose was to obtain a portrait of the region which included the areas of Shawville, Maniwaki, and as far east as Petite Nation. Areas in the Outaouais experienced approximately 30mm of freezing rain. Regions closer to Montreal received almost twice the amount; between 50-60mm.

Maple stands in the Outaouais were reported to have survived better than those in the eastern townships. According to ministry officials sugar maple (Acer Succharum) can be tapped providing a crown loss of no more than 10-20% . The ministry is recommending forests showing a crown loss of 40% and above should not be tapped this year. The loss of sap could be fatal to the trees' recovery.

According to Quebec's Ministry of Energy and Resources spokesperson Catherine Rooney; tree's can survive crown removal of up to 60%. However, there are a number of variables which predispose some trees to tolerate environmental insults better than others. These would include structural characteristics, such as the shape of the crown, trunk symmetry, and overall age and health of the tree. Landscape features also have an influence on the damage to trees. Forest stands with a south facing aspect may have survived better since the ice buildup was allowed to melt during a couple of mild days following the storm. Forest edges exposed to more freezing rain obviously would have accumulated higher amounts of ice buildup, and received less buffering from prevailing winds than trees growing in more protected "core" areas.

It was determined that few stands in the Outaouais had the 60-70% canopy loss witnessed in the eastern townships.

District foresters are advising , landowners, urban planners and forest producers to wait 4-5 years before deciding to remove any trees. Although no large scale research on landscape changes resulting from storm damage of this scale have been documented, studies on smaller pockets have revealed remarkable recovery.

The Quebec Ministry of Energy and Resources plan to produce a portrait of Quebec's forests that were impacted following aerial surveillance and mapping. A composite will reveal which areas were hardest hit and to what degree.

One major concern is the possibility that forest companies will want permission to immediately cut public lands This has happened elsewhere in Canada to accelerate access to merchantable timber. Companies have claimed that certain allocations are vulnerable to disease epidemics, fire or other threats as a means of gaining approval from provincial ministries to accelerate the Annual Allowable Cut. In this instance companies may suggest applying a "sanitation cut" in order to salvage damaged trees before they fall prey to disease, or decay. This can unnecessarily eliminate otherwise healthy stands and further degrade landscape functions.

It is estimated that it could take 10-20 years for the forests subjected to the storm to recover; a blip in the life span of a forest which can take hundreds of years to mature.

It is hoped the Quebec and Ontario Natural Resource Ministries along with Environment Canada will collaborate to produce an integrated composite map, and correlate differences in stand tolerance with meteorological data to arrive at theories of why certain forest community types, age classes or landscape characteristics were impacted more than others.

For more information on this report contact:
Ian Huggett
1 Pine St. Biox 1-C,
Aylmer Quebec
(819) 684-5342