Clemson Extension Forestry and Wildlife

Decision Making for Landowners With Storm-Damaged Timber

Occasionally, South Carolina landowners experience storm damage to standing timber. When this occurs, landowners have many questions about what to do with their damaged trees. The following information provides guidelines for quick decision-making and priority setting. There are no simple guidelines that fit all situations.

Damage after storms or weather events can occur in many different forms. Both pine and hardwood stands experience breakage, bent trees, wounds, twisted trunks, root damage, and standing water. Many of these damaged trees can still be utilized for wood and paper products, but their values have been greatly reduced. Decisions can include leaving the stand in its current condition, removing damaged trees at the next scheduled harvest, or conducting salvage operations.

Image of pine trees with storm damage.
Image of pine trees with storm damage.

Working in and around damaged timber is dangerous and special precaution needs to be taken prior to entering the timber stand. Forest landowners should seek the assistance of a consulting forester, the South Carolina Forestry Commission, or Clemson Extension.

An assessment of the damaged area must first be conducted. This will give you an idea of the extent of damage and the course of action that needs to take place. Priorities for salvage will depend on location, amount and type of damage, and management objectives. In areas where a large amount of storm damage has occurred, harvesting and processing firms will not be able to handle all of the available timber before insects and fungi degrade the quality or make it totally useless.

Landowners need to be concerned with getting the greatest value from their damaged timber. This does not mean shopping for the best price but getting the highest value materials removed first. Salvage harvest of some damaged timber will be difficult or hazardous. All of these factors will affect the prices paid for the damaged timber.

When establishing priorities for salvaging storm-damaged trees, the first and highest priority should be given to:

  • Timber with the highest potential product value (sawtimber and veneer)
  • Timber that is the easiest to cut (blown or bent in the same direction)
  • Timber which is most susceptible to pest damage (usually pine)

In order to minimize the cost associated with the salvage, sawtimber and pulpwood should be removed during the same operation.

General Guidelines:

  • Trees that do not have to be removed for salvage include undamaged trees, slightly debarked trees, pine trees with broken tops that have at least three to five good limbs remaining, trees leaning less than 45 degrees, and trees with roots still in the ground. Landowners can delay the decision or salvage of these trees for several months.
  • Harvesting should begin as soon as possible for uprooted trees, heavily debarked trees, and trees with broken trunks with fewer than three to five good limbs remaining.
  • When only a few trees per acre are damaged, no action may be necessary.
  • For the most part, hardwood trees are able to adapt better to storm damage than pines. In hardwood stands with breakage, most harvesting can be delayed until the next scheduled harvest. Bent hardwood trees are not usually attacked by insects or disease because they are not in a stressed condition. Hardwoods with root damage should be removed as soon as possible.
Loblolly pine stand with leaning trees.
Loblolly pine stand with leaning trees.

Physical Damage to Trees:

  • Trees that have tops broken out of them may not be usable for lumber because of wood splintering and internal separation.
  • Leaning or uprooted trees usually can be sawn for lumber.
  • Badly splintered trees present problems in debarking and chipping prior to pulping or conversion to particleboard.
  • Fungi and insects require time to degrade the quality of timber. Rapid harvest and removal is the most effective method to prevent pest damage.
  • The attached table is only a guideline for pest invasion and utilization timelines.

For additional information or questions, please contact a consulting forester, South Carolina Forestry Commission or Clemson Extension. 

Table 1. The sequence of Pest Invasion in Storm Damaged Timber
Timber Pests Time
Pine Engraver Beetles, Blue Stain Fungi,

Ambrosia beetles, Sawyers,

Soft rot fungi,

Decay fungi

3-6 weeks

4-8 weeks

1 year

2 years

Hardwoods Wood borers, Ambrosia beetles, Stains

Soft rot fungi

Decay fungi

2-3 months

1 year

2 years


Table 2. Utilization Guidelines for Storm Damaged Timber
Product Harvest by Comments
Lumber, appearance & veneer
(pine & hardwood)
3- 6 weeks Strains prohibit use if left longer
Lumber, framing (pine) 3- 4 months Should be kiln-dried, do not use if toughness is important
Lumber, decorative boards and paneling (pine & hardwood) 12 months Should be kiln-dried
Posts (pine) 4-6 weeks Blue stain will affect toughness and preservative treatability
Poles; pilings Not recommended
Pulp, hardboard 12 months Stain fungi, decay, and low moisture content may affect pulping process. Should be mixed with sound wood.
Fuelwood (pine & hardwood) 12 months Low moisture content increase heat value



Derrick Phinney, Cooperative Extension, Forestry and Wildlife Agent

This information is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement of brand names or registered trademarks by the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service is implied, nor is any discrimination intended by the exclusion of products or manufacturers not named. All recommendations are for South Carolina conditions and may not apply to other areas. 

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