Thousands Appear Half Dead, Or Half Green And Half Brown, But Should Return To Their Full Beauty Over Time

MASSAPEQUA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — It’s a strange sight across the Long Island landscape. Thousands of trees appear half dead.

Only half of the tree is shedding brown leaves, while the other half appears healthy. So, what’s going on? CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff found out on Thursday.

John Fee of Massapequa is grateful Tropical Storm Isaias didn’t uproot his trees, but it did another kind of damage.

“It’s kind of like bizarre. Half the tree is alive and vibrant and the other side of the tree is dead,” Fee said. “It looks like it’s a weird fall.”

That’s the scene across Nassau and Suffolk counties. Trees have gone from green to brown, seemingly overnight, but only half of each individual tree.

Salt burn (Credit: CBS2)

“This just went brown and dead,” resident Kenneth Johnson said. “That little maple was green like three days ago and it turned brown.”

It’s a strange sight in August, looking more like late autumn. The damaged halves face south, while the north-facing leaves remain green.

“What was happening with this storm, it was carrying a lot of salt,” said Mina Vescera of the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County.

Vescera said Isaias blew in from the south with a tremendous amount of ocean salt, and without much rain. It deposited damaging salt on tender leaves, what’s called “salt burn.”

The prognosis?

“It’s certainly made a lot of plants, especially on the southwest side, look pretty bad, but it is for the most part a superficial injury, and unless the plant was in really bad shape it’s likely that it will come back fine next year,” Vescera said.

The National Weather Service said it has tracked salt burn as far as 20 miles inland, nearly the entire width of Long Island.

“If you get rain it will tend to wash the salt away, which is why it didn’t happen in areas like Jersey and the lower Hudson Valley,” said Matthew Wunsch of the NWS’ New York office.

The experts say there’s not much that can be done at this point to help the trees recover, but should another dry windy storm come our way residents can hose off their plants and trees to remove the salt quickly, Gusoff reported.

That’s what Johnson wishes he’d done to his outdoor table. It got so much salt, it rusted overnight.

Thankfully, trees can grow back.

The area also saw this after Superstorm Sandy, and most of the trees that were still standing did recover.

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