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Fallen Timber From Hurricane Michael Creates Heightened Wildfire Risk In Florida Panhandle

A common sight in Panama City and much of the Florida Panhandle, trees snapped by Hurricane Michael line streets and highways one year after the storm caused catastrophic damage to the region.

Hurricane Michael destroyed about 2.8 million acres of trees, and the leftover debris is creating a serious threat of wildland fire to certain panhandle communities.

According to the Florida Forest Service, when Hurricane Michael struck the panhandle, it destroyed about 2.8 million acres of trees, and the leftover debris is creating a serious threat of wildland fire to the same communities struck by the storm more than two years ago.

Florida Forest Service Director Erin Albury is now encouraging people to educate themselves on how to mitigate wildland fires. He says the number of trees lying down in certain counties is causing new problems for firefighters.

"Our equipment cannot move that timber, so trying to fight these fires, it becomes a very dangerous situation for our firefighters," Albury says.

The Florida Forest Service's Chief of Forest Protection John Raulerson says forecasts depict above normal wildfire potential for May of 2021, potentially signaling a dryer than normal spring statewide.

"Learn how to separate and burn safe yard waste and create those defensible spaces around your homes and to prepare for an emergency ahead of time with a supply kit to be ready to move in case that time comes," Raulerson says.
Copyright 2021 WFSU. To see more, visit WFSU.org.

Robbie Gaffney is a recent graduate from Florida State University with degrees in Digital Media Production and Creative Writing. Before working at WFSU, they recorded FSU’s basketball and baseball games for Seminole Productions as well as interned for the PBS Station in Largo, Florida. Robbie loves playing video games such as Shadow of the Colossus, Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. Their other hobbies include sleeping and watching anime.
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