Hurricane Sandy October 30, 2012 By Jim Skorulski, Dave Oatis, and Adam Moeller

View of the 13th green at the Misquamicut Club in Watch Hill, RI. Photo courtesy of Dean A. Bozek, Superintendent 

The Oct. 29 landfall of hurricane Sandy and its catastrophic impacts will long be remembered by residents in the eastern half of the United States. The effects of this hurricane have been lethal and especially devastating along the Eastern Seaboard impacted by the wind and storm surge. The entirety of the storm’s impact is still being determined across many eastern states at the time of this writing, but the damage from the wind, rain and storm surge are extensive. Our hearts go out to all of you who are now dealing with the storm’s aftermath.

Golf course superintendents in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey report that the storm surge and resulting damage resulting from Sandy was even more significant than that experienced from the storms last year. Many areas were flooded multiple times during periods of high tide. Saltwater flooding and structural damage are being reported along with extensive debris left from receding waters. Many inland courses are dealing with damage and cleanup of downed trees and limbs. Fortunately, the inland flooding that was so damaging last summer did not impact the Northeast Region.

Saltwater flooding is never good for cool season turfgrass, but the late date of the submersion may help the turf tolerate the salts and provide some opportunity to take action before significant injury occurs. Consider the following points as you plan a cleanup and recovery strategy following the storm’s aftermath.

  • Golf courses that have experienced saltwater flooding should begin irrigating with fresh water as soon as it is possible to do so. Irrigation water can also be used to remove silt and other debris. Check the salinity of any irrigation pond that may have been breached. Water with an ECw of up to 2-3 dS/m (1280ppm-1920ppm total dissolved salt) though not ideal can still be used to flush salt-affected sites. Water with concentrations of salt higher than that should not be used. Utilize potable city water if it is available or utilize tanker trucks to bring in fresh water if necessary to flush salts from greens and other areas.
  • The question was raised last summer as to how much water will it take to remove salts from the upper regionalUpdateContent zone? Approximately 4” of infiltrated water will remove 90 percent of the salt from 4” of soil, regardless of the soil texture. Gypsum can be applied at 10 pounds per 1,000 sq ft while leaching the salt-affected areas. Reapply gypsum at 10 pounds per 1,000 sq ft when the areas can be cultivated.
  • Use a salinity meter (see links below) or have a saturated soil test completed to determine if the salinity has been lowered sufficiently for seeding. ECe (electrical conductivity of soil) should be < 4dS/m and preferably < 2 dS/m and an SAR < 6 and preferably < 3 before seeding damaged areas. Bentgrass cultivars such as Seaside II, Cobra, SR 1020 and Mariner have higher salt tolerances and may be a consideration for flood prone greens and other areas. The perennial ryegrass cultivars Brightstar SLT, Citation II, Citation Fore and Paragon offer higher salt tolerance, Alkaligrass and slender creeping red fescue grass can tolerate higher levels of salt and may also be a suitable choice for fairway areas that are more prone to saltwater flooding.
  • Although it is late, do not hesitate to dormant seed areas where salt damage becomes evident. That can be done with a drill seeder or shallow cultivation. Consider installing a permeable cover over dormant seeded greens to improve conditions for early spring germination. Dormant seeding is not that expensive and offers an opportunity to get seed up faster in spring.

Once again, we wish those impacted by the storm all the best in this difficult period and we encourage that you to contact us if you have any questions at all regarding the recovery procedures or damage that may have occurred to your golf course. We will do our best to provide any information and support we can and will keep you updated as we better understand the true extent of the damage.

Salinity Meters

Spectrum Technologies Field Scout

Oakton ECTestr-11

Know When To Over Irrigate, Vermeulen, Paul H. 1997. USGA Green Section Record. September/October. 35(5): p. 16   


UPDATED: 11/2/12 AT 2PM EST.

The Northeast Region agronomists are speaking with more golf course superintendents each day regarding the extent and type of damage that courses experienced. The bad news is that fallen trees on greens, washed out bunkers, flooding erosion and siltation have occurred, structures are damaged, and power is out, but salt water flooding is likely to cause the most extensive turf damage. Turf areas that experienced multiple salt water flooding events and areas that were under salt water for extended periods of time likely have suffered extensive damage.      

With all of the problems on the golf courses and in our communities it is difficult to find opportunities. The good news is that this is an opportunity for golf courses to establish new and improved grasses in the affected areas. With a solid recovery plan and a little bit of luck, the damaged areas of the golf course can be improved significantly in the long run. How? Choose wisely when you select grasses to reseed the affected areas.

Storm Damage

Assistant Superintendent Todd Salamore stands next to one of four consecutive pines upregionalUpdateContented at The Redding Country Club in West Redding, CT.

With the extensive damage and a difficult economy, many will be tempted to take the best deal when it comes to the purchase of seed, but cheaper is not always better. In fact, you get what you pay for is an appropriate adage to keep in mind when you go shopping. Grasses have been improved dramatically through research breeding efforts, and the grasses that are now available represent major improvements in virtually every category. Planting a bargain-basement seed may save a few dollars in the short term, and it may even get turf back a bit quicker, but also it can guarantee years of inferior performance in terms of wear tolerance, ability to tolerate low mowing, increased disease activity, etc. The value of using improved grasses is so significant in the long run that it would be much better to seed at reduced rates with improved grasses than to seed at normal or elevated rates using inferior varieties. There are always areas where corners can be cut and money can be saved, but when it comes to the selection of seed, think carefully and choose wisely.

  Here are a few additional thoughts:

·       Prepare a good seed bed. Good seed-to-soil contact is essential for good results.

·       Dormant seeding is a good idea if you have the ability to do so.

·       Plan on follow-up seeding early next spring as well. Additional spot-seeding may be necessary again later in the spring depending on germination and recovery rates. Thus, purchase seed quantities accordingly.

It is too early to predict the extent of damage or recovery rates, but golfers tend to be impatient, especially in the spring after a long winter of no golf. Plan on restricting play from affected areas next spring until they have a chance to recover. Keeping traffic off tender new turf will result in a quicker recovery and much better turf in the long run.     

 Most importantly, keep things in perspective. Some golf courses have been hit hard by hurricane Sandy, but grass is a renewable resource and turf areas that have been devastated by salt water flooding now have an opportunity to be better than they were before. It may take awhile and some patience is required, but we have the technology to make them better. We just need some patience to go along with the technology.


Northeast Region Green Section- Dave Oatis, Director; Adam Moeller, Agronomist Jim Skorulski, Senior Agronomist