3/10/2003 - West Virginia's timber industry took a big hit from last months ice storm. That means millions of dollars in lost wages and profits, according to State Forester Randy Dye.

Dye had a view of the damage from a helicopter and said in some areas trees have been toppled and look like toothpicks sprawled out on the ground.

The hardest hit counties are Mason,Jackson,Upshur and Webster with six other counties, including Calhoun,seriously impacted by the storm. All of them are in the central part of the state.

Dye says the Division of Forestry is working on a plan to help land owners and timber operators recover from the storm.

The Division of Forestry is asking landowners to survey their property and assess the amount of damage. (See RUSS RICHARDSON article on The Herald.

The crowns of trees were damaged so badly that they'll have to be cut down, he said.

In other spots, the crowns were damaged but not enough to stop growth. Dye said Virginia pines were the trees hardest hit by this storm.

Dye says the timber industry is a $3.2 billion dollar business a year for West Virginia.

Because of the storm, timber operators haven't been able to get in new timber shipments, which means timber mills are idle. That costs the state more than $6 million per day.

The downed trees can become fuel for spring forest fires. That's why the Division of Forestry wants to tackle the clean-up soon.