This summer won’t seem to end in Northern Virginia, and it’s starting to look like when fall finally comes the hot, rainless weather might make the foliage a bit less spectacular.
Shenandoah National Park is considered one of the best places in the area to look at foliage, and Claire Comer, with the park, says, “We’re going to be impacted by the heat and the and the lack of rainfall.”
She says in the Shenandoah area, the rainfall for the year is 26 inches short of average so far this year. “We did get a little rain this weekend,” she said grimly, “which was great, because we also had a fire.”
It’s likely to take a toll on the foliage, she says: “The colors will likely be muted; they won’t probably be as vibrant as they are some years when we have plenty of rain.”
Good fall foliage starts in the spring, Comer says, and the situation hasn’t been good. That said, the onset of fall will decide a lot: “For the color to really start, we need a cold snap, and we’ve not had that yet.”
When it comes, Comer says, it could shorten the peak viewing season. “If we would get a deep frost, then that would probably shorten the amount of time that we have with the color, because the severity of that cold snap might cause those leaves to fall quicker.”
She still forecasts a mid-October peak for the higher elevations of the park, with the lower areas, such as around Front Royal, coming later.
She adds that there’s more to life, even to a foliage trip, than brilliant colors: “Muted colors can be wonderful, too. And I certainly wouldn’t want to discourage anyone from coming to the park.”
Even if the leaves fall quickly, she adds, that just means there’s more to see. “The wildlife viewing and the views are so wonderful,” she says. “When the overlooks are not obstructed by the leaves, you can see and to the next, you know, the next valley and all the way across to the Alleghenies. It’s a great time to hike because it’s not so hot. I think it’s still going to be a wonderful fall.”
Christopher Strong, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, says rain totals this year vary “quite a bit across the Mid-Atlantic,” and that things aren’t as bleak in the immediate DC area: The rain deficit for the year at Reagan National Airport is 5.5 inches, while it’s nearly 10 inches at Dulles International Airport. He suggests checking the U.S. Drought Monitor to keep apprised of the totals.
Feature image, stock.adobe.com
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