Summer heat, recent drought may mute fall foliage

With cooler weather expected this weekend, and the calendar flipped to October, many of us might be tempted to check out fall foliage — especially since three leaf-viewing vistas in the D.C. area rank in Yelp’s list of 20 best places in the U.S.

Even in the magnificence of Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park and the U.S. National Arboretum, this year’s colors may not be as spectacular as years past, according to 7News First Alert Meteorologist Brian van de Graaff.

“We’ve had a fairly dry spate of water, and also a pretty hot stretch late in the summer, so there are some things that can impact the color,” he said.

“Shenandoah Valley and out through the Blue Ridge, they’re under a higher drought situation as of late,” van de Graaff said. “They’ve seen some color change, but it’s been more stress-change, where they actually turn brown more quickly, and see early leaf drop.”

However, he said “now that we’ve gotten some rain left over from Ophelia, it may give us a little bit of a boost here in the metro area.”

In addition, generally the most vivid colors are later in the year: “It’s often later in October and early November for us to actually see some of our better color in the metro area,” said van de Graaf.

He expects most people will still get a thrill with a trip to the mountains: “It doesn’t cost a thing and you’re just exploring and taking a look at nature’s splendor.”

Despite the weather challenges, he said “that doesn’t mean we can’t have some vivid colors, and each tree kind of reacts to it a little bit differently.”

“If we wait a little bit later in the season, we’ll start to see some of that vibrant color that we all love,” said van de Graaf.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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