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Scientists Look at the Ice Storm, One Year Later


SYRACUSE, N.Y. - A year after a devastating ice storm brought life in the North Country to a virtual standstill, a group of international experts will gather to reassess the storm and its aftermath.

The symposium set for Jan. 29 is one of numerous projects sponsored by the New York Center for Forest Research and Development (NYCFRD), which is based at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF).

The meeting is being funded in part by $863,000 in federal money that was funneled to the center to support research related to the ice storm. Center Director Edwin H. White credited state Sen. John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) with helping the center obtain the funding.

"Because of his role in funding the center, we were ready to get in line for the federal money," said White, who is also dean of research at ESF. "A small state investment brought in a lot of federal dollars for us."

The symposium will feature one project that received funding from the center. Dr. Paul Manion, a professor of forest pathology at ESF, will discuss his analysis of how the storm affected numerous forest parcels across northern New York.

"In our survey, we're finding some areas are very seriously damaged and some are not. We're looking at which species and forest types are most affected," he said. "The center funds provided the foundation for getting started."

Dr. Douglas Allen, an ESF professor who is a leader in planning the ice storm symposium, hopes to compile an all-inclusive record of the storm's effect, including maps of where the damage occurred and details of the work done by emergency response teams. The information could help the resource professionals of the future do a better job managing the forests.

"The idea behind the symposium is to bring together all the information we know about the storm and the damage it caused to the forests of the Northeast. It's important to do it now while it's fresh in everyone's mind," Allen said.

"Ten or 20 years from now, people might go into a forest and see trees in bad condition. Without a history of that stand, they're not going to know what happened to it. They're going to speculate," he said.

The daylong symposium will be held in conjunction with the winter meeting of the New York Society of American Foresters. The group's meeting is Jan. 27 through 29 and is headquartered at the Holiday Inn in Cortland.

Co-sponsors of the event are the NYCFRD, the U.S. Forest Service, and Niagara Mohawk Power Corp.

DeFrancisco has been instrumental in supporting the center since its inception. Most recently, he helped the center obtain $250,000 in state funds. The measure was co-sponsored by state Sen. James Wright, R-Watertown.

The funding supports the center's efforts to conduct research relevant to the needs of New York's forest industry. The center's focus is applied research aimed at contributing to the economic well-being of the citizens of New York. Its mission includes keeping the state's forest owners and professionals informed about ways to manage and enhance New York's forest resources.

ESF President Ross S. Whaley said the center allows the college to respond quickly to emergencies such as the ice storm. It also serves as a tool to help obtain funding that supports a wide variety of projects, including the symposium. Most of the recent federal funding will be split among five projects, all related to improving the forest industry in New York.

There will be two featured speakers at the symposium. WIXT-Channel 9 meteorologist Dave Eichorn will explain how the storm occurred. Kathy Jones of the snow and ice branch of the U.S. Army's Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in Hanover, N.H., will give a presentation on the physics of ice formation and how it is affected by wind and temperature.

Other topics to be discussed include the storm's impact on the maple syrup and forest industries, the Department of Environmental Conservation's response to the storm, the history of catastrophic events affecting northeastern forests in the last millennium, and the extent of damage in Canada, New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont.

Allen said the symposium will be of special interest to forest managers and those in related industries, such as maple syrup production.

Those who wish to obtain registration details or further information should contact Dinnie Sloman, chair-elect of the New York Society of American Foresters, at 914-586-3054.