As autumn arrives, weather will predict colors of season
Autumn is here.
And now, Fay-West residents are waiting to see the vibrant colors that welcome in the season.
The leaves of fall are a splendor to behold — if the weather plays its part in the natural process of change.
The peak leaf season in the Fay-West area is usually the second and third weeks of October. However, the unusually dry weather is causing havoc with nature. Many leaves are turning color early or going to brown weeks before they should.
"Many of our leaves are already turning," said Barbara Wallace, Ohiopyle State Park naturalist. "We're seeing an early leaf season and many are going right to brown because it's been so dry."
Wallace, who has been with the park service for 16 years, said Ohiopyle usually sees a big influx of fall visitors searching for the vibrant colors of the foliage.
"Our crowds tend to be a little slow here in September unless the weather is really nice, but we usually see a lot more people in late September early October who come to see the leaves," Wallace said. "Right now we are seeing the effects of the lack of rain."
Wallace said many of the park's hollows and stream areas are already brown. Trees are turning much earlier than normal.
"I've never seen it this early," Wallace said of the changing foliage. "It's been a strange year all around with the weather."
An usually warm April brought spring blossoms out early, with many bushes and plants reaching their peak spring color weeks early.
"Everything all year has been a bit early," Wallace said.
The higher than average temperatures and lower than average rainfall have combined to create an early Autumn. Many naturalists are predicting that the area will not experience a set time period that will be a peak for the leaves.
"I don't know if we will have that spectacular fall color that we normally do," said Accuweather meteorologist Paul Walker. "We're already seeing some fall foliage and many trees are dropping their leaves already."
Autumn leaf color depends on two key factors — sunshine and rain. Leaves need light, water and carbon dioxide to react with the plant's chlorophyll in order to keep the green shading.
When fall rolls around, the cool nights produce sugar in the leaves and trigger the veins to start closing off. In doing so, the sugars produce the different pigments of the leaves that are seen every autumn.
Although it is predicted that the trees will get the cooler nights that is needed, the rain might not be as forthcoming and the daylight temperatures are expected to remain high.
"It's going to be very warm the next couple days," Walker said. "We'll see a cold front that will move in Friday night and we may see a couple of showers or thunderstorms."
The weekend is predicted to be more seasonal. Temperatures are expected to be in the 70s but the long-term forecast looks for the mercury to rise.
"The forecast for October looks for the averages to be above normal," Walker said. "We are looking at one to three degrees above normal."
The average temperature for October is 53. Walker stated that it may be closer to 60.
Although temperatures may be high, precipitation is expected to remain low.
To date in the month of September, the area has received 1.3 inches of rain which is below the average of 4.15 inches. October may see much rain either.
"It looks like we are talking near normal but a bit low," Walker said. "Precipitation may be low in October."
A recent rainfall has helped with a potentially colorful fall and Wallace hopes the rains will help in creating the beautiful hues for which the region is known.
"We had the rain on Friday and hopefully that will bring us another week," Wallace said. "We usually see our best foliage the second week of October but this year it's just been so early. We really don't know what to expect."Additional Information:
Storms move through area
Wednesday afternoon's fast-moving storm brought high winds and heavy rains. Although short, the storm caused widespread damage, including downed trees and power outages.
The storm hit the Fay-West area about 4:40 p.m. and moved on about 5:15 p.m.
More than 27,000 customers lost power, most in the Greensburg area. According to the Allegheny Energy website, most outages were caused by trouble on main lines. Local outages were concentrated in Acme, Mt. Pleasant and Mt. Pleasant Township, Norvelt, Scottdale, Dawson, Fayette City and Perryopolis.
Allegheny Energy had crews out last night restoring power.