CLEMSON--Hurricanes, even ones as powerful as Hugo, are a necessary and important part of the natural order of things. While they may destroy some man-made structures and wildlife habitats, hurricanes also create new habitats for wildlife and break long, hot summer droughts, giving crops a much-needed drink of water ... if the crops aren't blown away by the wind.
"Only now are scientists beginning to recognize the critical importance of natural catastrophes in ecosystem dynamics," said William H. Conner, a Clemson University forestry scientist who is studying the effects of hurricanes on coastal environments in South Carolina and Louisiana.
Conner is based at Clemson's Belle W. Baruch Institute of Coastal Ecology and Forest Science in Georgetown; other Clemson forest scientists are located at the main campus or at one of the university's four other public service research centers around the state. Hurricane Hugo's sweep through South Carolina served as a living laboratory for forestry and environmental scientists from the U.S. Forest Service, S.C. Forestry Commission and other Southeastern universities, as well as Clemson.
"We will be much better prepared to respond to forest disasters because of Hugo," said Roy L. Hedden, a Clemson forest resources scientist. "Now we know how many people and what equipment it takes to salvage the downed timber, what timber is salvageable, how to store the timber and how to rehabilitate the remaining forest."
Nearly two-thirds of South Carolina (12.5 million acres) is forest land --either public forests, privately owned land or production timber plantations. Before Hugo came ashore, the S.C. Forestry Commission warned forest landowners to expect major damage.
The day after the storm passed through the state, with reported
sustained winds of 121 miles-per-hour and reported gusts up to 147
miles-per-hour, a forest disaster was declared. More than one-third of the
Contact: Debbie Dalhouse