- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 11, 2005


Recent rains may have rescued the leaf season.

The forecast was bleak two weeks ago because dry conditions were choking trees of the nutrients needed to create colorful, autumn-hued leaves.

Then came the record-setting rain that began Friday and is expected to continue through the week.

“The statewide rain may well be sufficient to give a boost to the fall color,” said Jerry Stenger, research coordinator for the Virginia State Climatology Office in Charlottesville. “Whenever you think you have some good indication of how things are going to turn out, just wait for the weather to change.”

Extreme hot or cold temperatures also can mute the fall leaves, known for their vivid shades of red and orange.

The rain Friday and Saturday was the third-highest amount in the region since scientists began keeping records, the National Weather Service reported.

Still, predicting a season is not an exact science.

“In many years of doing this, I have rarely seen a fall-color prognostication that came out generally correct,” Mr. Stenger said.

The Virginia Department of Forestry recommends the best weeks for “leaf peepers.”

Agency officials say Sunday through Oct. 30 will be prime time in the state’s western and southwestern regions.

The colors will improve across the state, progressing to the east and north, through mid-November.

“I try to work in the field as much as possible in October,” said John Scrivani, the agency’s director of resource information.

He prefers the views from valleys, where he can see the progression of color up the mountain.

In Maryland, many of the leaves have started to turn in Garrett County, where peak viewing comes in mid-October. The state’s season ends about the second week of November with the fading colors in St. Mary’s County.

Other signature fall colors include the purples of persimmon and dogwood, the bronze of hickory and the hues of yellow poplar.

However, Mr. Stenger said many leaf gazers still judge the quality of a season upon the brilliance of the red leaves found on black gum, maple and sourwood trees.

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