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Tatras mark 10th anniversary of windstorm

TEN years ago, on November 19, 2004, extreme winds with speeds of up to 230 km per hour levelled forests in the Tatra mountains, toppling the nation’s pride along with them. The disaster left two people dead, billions of crowns in damages and Slovakia’s most popular tourist destination badly scarred. After 10 years, all the damages have yet to be counted due to the arrival of the bark beetle which has caused comparable damages. Nevertheless, new forests are growing on affected territories, while only children of current generations will live to see proper forests here.

TEN years ago, on November 19, 2004, extreme winds with speeds of up to 230 km per hour levelled forests in the Tatra mountains, toppling the nation’s pride along with them. The disaster left two people dead, billions of crowns in damages and Slovakia’s most popular tourist destination badly scarred. After 10 years, all the damages have yet to be counted due to the arrival of the bark beetle which has caused comparable damages. Nevertheless, new forests are growing on affected territories, while only children of current generations will live to see proper forests here.

“At that time wind was breaking trees, tearing off roofs and destroying everything that came into its path,” Ján Mokoš, the mayor of Vysoké Tatry municipality, a clustering of villages in the High Tatras, recalled what happened 10 years ago for the Košice’s Korzár daily.

The wind, called Tatra bora, blasted the High Tatras after 15:00 and over the next nearly three hours, it toppled trees on a stretch three to four kilometres wide and 40 km long. Severe damage was done also to other forests, including in the Low Tatras, Orava, Kysuce and Slovenské Rudohorie Mountains. Damages were calculated at almost €260 million.

The windstorm damaged 12,600 hectares of forests when it levelled about 3 million cubic metres of trees within the territory of the Tatras National Park (TANAP). Foresters have planted 5 million trees over the last 10 years.

Part of the calamity deadwood was excavated, while fallen trees in the most protected parts of the National Park were left to nature to take care of. This has led to a massive outbreak of bark beetles and spread of this insect into parts of Tatra forests not damaged by the windstorm. The bark beetle damaged 7,000 hectares of forests administered by the state forest company Štátne Lesy TANAP.

Whether to remove fallen trees and help nature recover by planting young trees, or to leave fallen trees as they are and allow nature to cope with the impact of the windstorm remains a topic of dispute among foresters and environmental activists.

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