Wet and heavy snow causing millions of euros of damage to forest owners
Snow is whirling in Puolanka in Northern Finland as distribution network riggers Pekka Tanskanen and Teijo Heikkinen from Eltel are clearing the snow away from power lines.
The Puolanka region has suffered from electricity blackouts over the last couple of days and the riggers have been sent out to prevent new problems from occurring.
"We clear the snow away from the power lines and cut off branches that could fall and cause damage", Tanskanen says.
Similar field patrols have been sent out all over the country because trees burdened by the weight of heavy, wet snow fall on power cables and have brought electricity outages to households and companies all over Finland.
Fallen trees have caused even greater damage to the forest owners than to electricity generating companies. A cooperative forest in Kemijärvi has estimated that the damage caused by snow load in their stands of trees has already totalled EUR 400,000, and the heavy wet snow is threatening to bring record-high losses.
"The snow load has been very high this year and has seriously damaged forests. This could lead to a serious financial loss, particularly in Northern Finland", says district manager Pekka Kylmänen from the Northern Ostrobotnia Forestry Centre.
The situation has been worsened by the mild and wet autumn, which has stopped the ground from freezing in the normal fashion.
"Consequently the roots are loose and trees fall down very easily. Pine forests are particularly vulnerable to damage; fir trees are more sturdy and birches are more flexible", according to Kylmänen.
The damage is likely to run into millions of euros. The indemnities paid by insurance companies have varied significantly from one year to the next, but in 1999 Tapiola alone paid EUR 500,000 in compensation on damage caused by snowstorms.
Senior advisor Mikko Peltonen from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry recommends forestry insurance policies, as damage can occur in spite of good silvicultural programmes and regular thinning.
"Global warming can increase problems of this nature in the future. As winters are becoming milder, snow damage like this will be more frequent."
The police have urged drivers to be cautious of falling trees in Lapland. Experts are now hoping the temperature will gradually rise and the heavy snow will melt gradually. Strong winds or a sudden rise in temperature could result in damage turning into a major economic catastrophe.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Wet and heavy snow leaves thousands of households without electricity (3.1.2006)