A BORA, a specific type of massive katabatic windstorm, toppled almost two million trees in Slovakia and also damaged younger forest vegetation that had been replanted after a 2004 windstorm, when the Tatra Mountains, the country’s most popular tourist destination, saw entire forests levelled. The windstorm, which hit Slovakia on May 15, damaged 130,000 trees in the Tatra National Park (TANAP) alone, while 5,000 trees fell in areas with the highest degree of protection.

Even, if the devastation did not reach the scale of 2004’s Bora, which took three million trees in the Tatras, the damage is considerable. While the windstorm in 2004 came during the fall, the recent windstorm scarred the forests in spring, when animals are raising their offspring and likely adversely affected birds and a number of other animals, foresters from TANAP explained.

The national park administration estimates that there are 426,000 cubic metres of damaged woods in the areas of TANAP and Chočské Vrchy, Michaela Hančinská, a forester with TANAP administration confirmed for The Slovak Spectator.

“Young trees that emerged after the 2004 gale could not withstand the wind,” Hančinská said, adding that estimates for the damage will be updated in the upcoming days.

In 2004, when wind speeds were clocked at 170 kilometres per hour, the disaster left two people dead and billions of Slovak crowns in damages. The force of the gale knocked down the equivalent of over two million cubic metres of timber, or nearly a year’s worth of coniferous logging in one day, while a total of 12,600 hectares were affected.

Bora 2014

Several localities are inaccessible since the gale combined with strong rain extensively damaged forest roads and tourist trails, including bridges, shelters and tourist signs. The most affected areas in terms of damaged forest infrastructure and bridges are Podspád, Javorová and Bielovodská Valleys in Belianske Tatry. The region of Orava in the Western Tatras, in the localities of Habovka, Zverovka, Bobrovecká Valley in Oravice, have suffered damage as well, Hančinská said.

“It seems that the epicentre of the windstorm was in Vyšné Hágy, and what had survived the calamity in 2004, was destroyed and damaged now,” said Environment Minister Peter Žiga, as quoted by the SITA newswire, on May 17.

The foresters will be able to process most of the fallen timber. Nevertheless, the fallen wood cannot be processed from areas with the highest, fifth-degree environmental protection within TANAP.
In the areas where foresters are removing the fallen trees, new trees will be planted while in areas where interventions are banned “nature will take care of itself”, said Hančinská.

In the highly protected areas where the timber will not be removed, bark beetles might spread. However, Hančinská suggested that in these exquisite areas where no intervention is allowed, “the bark beetle has its natural place in the cycle of the calamity-hit forest”.

Žiga said he is ready to allocate money from the state’s environmental fund to revive the biotopes and tourist trails.

On May 15, when winds downed trees and tore off roofs, the Slovak Hydrometeorological Institute (SHMÚ) declared the highest, third-level warning against heavy rain for the northern parts of Žilina and Prešov Regions.

Radka Minarechová contributed to this report