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Westmoreland

Fall arrives in Western Pennsylvania, brings expectations for mild winter

Patrick Varine
| Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017, 11:40 p.m.
Joe Simon, owner of Simon's Orchard, brings in a trailer full of apples, enough to press more than 100 gallons of cider, at his farm in Mt. Pleasant Township, on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Joe Simon, owner of Simon's Orchard, brings in a trailer full of apples, enough to press more than 100 gallons of cider, at his farm in Mt. Pleasant Township, on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017.
Joe Simon, owner of Simon's Orchard in Mt. Pleasant Township, brings in a trailer full of apples on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Joe Simon, owner of Simon's Orchard in Mt. Pleasant Township, brings in a trailer full of apples on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017.
Apples hang on the trees of Simon's Orchard in Mt. Pleasant Township on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Apples hang on the trees of Simon's Orchard in Mt. Pleasant Township on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017.
Joe Simon, owner of Simon's Orchard in Mt. Pleasant Township, brings in a trailer full of apples on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Joe Simon, owner of Simon's Orchard in Mt. Pleasant Township, brings in a trailer full of apples on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017.
Crates of apples are loaded into the sorting room by Joe Simon, owner of Simon's Orchard in Mt. Pleasant Township, on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Crates of apples are loaded into the sorting room by Joe Simon, owner of Simon's Orchard in Mt. Pleasant Township, on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017.
Apples are loaded into the sorting room by Joe Simon, owner of Simon's Orchard in Mt. Pleasant Township, on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Apples are loaded into the sorting room by Joe Simon, owner of Simon's Orchard in Mt. Pleasant Township, on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017.
Small apples fall off the sorting line before being moved to crates to be pressed into cider at Simon's Orchard in Mt. Pleasant Township on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Small apples fall off the sorting line before being moved to crates to be pressed into cider at Simon's Orchard in Mt. Pleasant Township on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017.
Joe Simon, owner of Simon's Orchard, moves apples from the sorting line into crates at his farm in Mt. Pleasant Township on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Joe Simon, owner of Simon's Orchard, moves apples from the sorting line into crates at his farm in Mt. Pleasant Township on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017.
Joe Simon, owner of Simon's Orchard, inspects apples as they move from the polishing brushes on the line at his farm in Mt. Pleasant Township on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Joe Simon, owner of Simon's Orchard, inspects apples as they move from the polishing brushes on the line at his farm in Mt. Pleasant Township on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017.
Joe Simon, owner of Simon's Orchard, moves apples from the sorting line into crates at his farm in Mt. Pleasant Township on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Joe Simon, owner of Simon's Orchard, moves apples from the sorting line into crates at his farm in Mt. Pleasant Township on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017.

As Eddard Stark, a character from HBO's epic fantasy series "Game of Thrones," put it: "Winter is coming."

But for Western Pennsylvania, it's not quite as ominous a warning as in the fictional land of Westeros. Rather, it will likely mean a repeat of last year's milder winter temperatures.

"Right now, there's no indications (of) above- or below-normal precipitation for the winter, and temperatures are trending slightly above average," said National Weather Service meteor­ologist Fred McMullen.

The Pittsburgh region typically receives about 40 inches of snow over the course of the winter, McMullen said.

While temperatures during the summer were on par with the yearly average, the region experienced a single day — June 13 — when the high cracked the 90-degree mark.

"We average about nine days over 90 degrees each year," McMullen said.

As summer rolls into fall with the equinox at 4:02 p.m. Friday, groups throughout the region are taking stock of how this year's weather has affected them.

"It's been a real good year," said Jeff Norman, owner of Norman's Orchard in Frazer Township. "The abundance of (spring and summer) rain makes our apples a little bit larger and juicier, so that's been very good."

Norman said the lack of sun has affected the coloration of his apples a bit, "but these last few days may help that."

Lack of sun also affected the orchard's mid-season apple varieties, like Red and Golden Delicious.

"They're still very good, but they aren't quite as tasty as normal," he said.

At Schramm Farms & Orchards in Penn Township, it's much the same story, at least with the apple crop.

"The only problem we have was when it warmed up early in the spring and then cooled off," said farm partner Hil Schramm. "We got frost on some of the earlier varieties of plums. It thinned them down too much, but the later varieties did fine."

Joe Simon, of Simon's Orchards in Mt. Pleasant, said he is on track to harvest 400 bushels of the 11 varieties of apples he is growing.

"A couple years ago, it was kind of dry after July and it hurt the size," Simon said. "We're doing pretty good this year."

The Farmers Almanac forecasts the winter to be "warmer than normal, with slightly above-normal precipitation and below-normal snowfall," with the coldest period between mid-December and mid-February.

That's not great news for Katie Buchan, communications manager at Seven Springs Mountain Resort, but they'll make do.

"We prepare ourselves for anything," Buchan said. "We have one of the biggest snowmaking systems in the country, and we use it."

Buchan said ideal conditions are a temperature at or below 28 degrees and low humidity.

"What we'll hope for is a lot of days with snow and cooler weather," she said. "I've seen predictions all over the map, so it's really hard to plan for."

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2862, pvarine@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.

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