A sad anniversary: The High Tatras turned into a moonscape 15 years ago

A strong windstorm damaged vast forests in 2004, leaving two people dead.

Slovakia was hit by a strong windstorm on November 19, 2004, causing massive damage to nature and people Slovakia was hit by a strong windstorm on November 19, 2004, causing massive damage to nature and people (Source: Ján Krošlák)

The face of the High Tatras changed forever exactly 15 years ago. Slovakia was hit by an uncommonly strong windstorm on November 19, 2004, claiming two lives while destroying hectares of forest.

The gusts of wind were as strong as 200km/h at Skalnaté Pleso lake, situated just under the Lomnický Štít peak, and 230km/h in the upper forest limit, the TASR newswire reported.

The strong windstorm, named Alžbeta (Elisabeth), was felt the most in the northern parts of central Slovakia. The Tatra National Park (TANAP) was hit the hardest: 12,600 hectares of forest quickly vanished.

TANAP researchers had to rescue a colony of bats, which were moved to the Belianska Cave in the national park. The storm caused a lot of trouble for people as well, TASR wrote.

The European Union allocated €195 million towards repairing infrastructure, and the national park was restored in Slovakia.

Resilient TANAP forests

Following the windstorm, TANAP also had to fight bark beetles, which damaged nearly 1.3 million cubic metres of the woods. Moreover, 46 percent of it grew in the areas where trees could not be restored.

Related articleThe day that changed the Tatra mountains for good Read more 

Today, trees destroyed by bark beetles outnumber the number of trees damaged by the windstorm in 2004.

“While in the areas with lower levels of protection destroyed trees were processed and the area was re-forested, in the areas with the strictest level of protection the woods remained without intervention,” TANAP head Maroš Petrík said, as quoted by the SITA newswire.

However, the work was done by nature itself and green forests have grown even in the strictly protected areas of the national park. These forests should be even more resilient than the ones restored by conservationists, he said.

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