The winter storms that tore through the Pacific Northwest with ice and snow over the weekend are posing challenges for the nursery and greenhouse industry.

Some nursery crops, especially trees, suffered damage, and the weather has also disrupted work during a critical shipping time. Industry leaders and shippers say because many people are still stuck at home or without power, it’s too early to tell the scale of the damage, but early anecdotal reports are trickling in.

“Reports are coming in slowly,” Jeff Stone, executive director of Oregon Association of Nurseries, told the Capital Press Monday. “It appears that the shade tree side got hit pretty good.”

The Capital Press reached out to several shade tree growers and other nursery businesses. One grower said they are cleaning up from ice damage and won’t have a full assessment for a few days. Others did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

According to utility company data, more than a quarter-million customers across Oregon and Washington remained without power Monday after storms downed more than 4,400 power lines. Some outages may extend into Thursday, according to officials.

“It is also prime shipping time (for the nursery industry), so the ice storm was very ill-timed, just like COVID and the fires,” said Stone of the association.

The nursery industry is currently ramping up for its peak spring shipping season. Oregon’s $1 billion nursery industry ships about 75% of its stock out of state.

Aron Asbell, an agent with Gulick Freight Service Logistics, a freight broker that coordinates shipments of nursery stock, among other things, said the winter storms have definitely impacted the industry.

“There are quite a few trucks canceled or delayed,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of trucks stuck in snow that are getting towed out.”

Asbell said since it’s all still happening in real time and he’s responsible for coordinating logistics, he doesn’t have a sense yet of the volume of disrupted shipments or how much this will affect the overall market for nursery stock.

“I’m too deep into it to really see the big picture yet. I’m still in the middle of it,” he said.

But one bright spot, Asbell said, is that the cold weather front will keep bare root material from warming up and pushing out of dormancy too early.

“That’s the upside,” he said. “It’s been a challenging couple of days, but we’re getting through it.”

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