Meteorologist: ‘Microbursts’ Devastated Forest
BOISE, Idaho (AP) _ ″Microbursts,″ or powerful downward blasts of wind, flattened up to 2,500 acres of timber in a series of violent thunderstorms that ripped across southwestern Idaho, a meteorologist said.
The microbursts leveled enough timber to load about 4,000 logging trucks, four times earlier estimates, officials said.
″It plain marched right across Idaho,″ Al Dreumont of the National Weather Service in Boise said Wednesday. ″But at one point, at several points, the system became very severe. The thing was just classic.″
The Tuesday night storm, with winds up to 58 mph, swept through Boise, Ada, Gem and Canyon counties. It ripped roofs from some houses, battered fruit trees and other crops, knocked out power to some 10,000 customers in Boise and flipped one house trailer, injuring two people inside.
In southeastern Idaho, officials on Wednesday found the bodies of three men who set out in a speedboat on American Falls Reservoir on Tuesday just before the area was hit by a severe thunderstorm.
Estimates of timber lost in the Boise National Forest, which took the brunt of Tuesday’s storm, quadrupled after a Forest Service aerial survey.
Spokesman Dale Dufour said tornado-force winds tore trees from the ground and snapped others off like sticks over 2,500 acres. Between 20 million and 25 million board feet of timber were felled.
There was no immediate estimate on the value of the downed timber, but a Forest Service official said it could be in the neighborhood of $300,000 to $500,000.
″A high percentage of it appears to be salvageable, some by helicopter logging, some by conventional logging,″ Dufour said, but under salvage sale conditions officials said the timber would command only about half its normal value.
Hailstorms in Gem and northeastern Canyon County piled up hailstones as deep as three inches in some areas, severely damaging fruit trees. Official estimates were not available, but individual damage reports totaled more than $1 million.
Idaho annually produces fruit worth approximately $28 million, including $25 million in apples.
Microbursts have been linked in the past to plane crashes, and are thought responsible for the crash of a Delta Air Lines jet last summer near the Dallas-Fort Worth airport.