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    Fear Not, Recent Extreme Weather No Spoiler for Fall Foliage

    By By Grace Muller, AccuWeather.com staff writer
    September 18, 2011, 4:27:46 AM EDT

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    There is great news for areas in the Northeast flooded by Irene and the recent rainstorm: the leaves won't be ruined this year.

    "I still think we could have a reasonable year for fall colors this year, even with the climatic extremes that we've had," Penn State's fall foliage expert Dr. Marc Abrams said.

    The economy of flood-ravaged Vermont depends on fall's leaf-peeping tourists, so vibrant leaves are important. While many trees were damaged and uprooted by the winds and soggy ground, "if you think about it, that's a small percentage of the trees" in the area, Abrams said. The flooding damaged and destroyed roads worse than the trees.

    "Vermonters have pulled out all the stops to repair the roads and communities that were affected," the Official State of Vermont Tourism site reads.

    "If you have plans to come visit, please keep them; we would love to see you and our businesses need you now more than ever," the site continues. "On some roads, you can expect travel to take a little extra time at work zones or detours for construction."

    "It doesn't look like any long durations of rain" for upstate New York, Vermont, Connecticut or Maine, though there will be some rain during that key period, AccuWeather.com Expert Senior Meteorologist Dave Dombek said.

    Map of Current Vermont Road Conditions Vermont Foliage Forecaster

    For the rest of the country, this summer bounced from one extreme to another with one of the driest Julys on record to one of the wettest late-Augusts. However, this year's crazy weather hasn't totally ruined the chances for a beautiful fall, Penn State's fall foliage expert Dr. Marc Abrams said.

    Abrams, a professor of Forest Ecology, started observing what weather conditions make good leaf-peeping years when he joined the School of Agriculture faculty 25 years ago.

    "Every year people are interested in that topic and I tried to figure out what makes good years and bad years for fall color."

    Usually, a good year for a colorful display would be "a good climatic growing season without prolonged droughts," Abrams said. However, that's only one part of what makes a great year for brightly colored leaves.

    "Really, one of the most important things is what happens in the end of September and the first two weeks of October," Abrams said.

    Cool, crisp temperatures are the key for brightly colored leaves. In those weeks, nighttime temperatures hopefully fall into low 30s and 40s with bright sunny days and dry weather.

    But great leaves this fall aren't a sure thing. If the weather stays warm and wet, "that will be a problem. [The leaves] won't go into their normal coloration."

    The leaves are brightest when the cool weather starts at the end of September. If the cooldown starts in late October instead, Abrams says that the colors aren't as vibrant.

    The end of September will be warm and dry in the northern upper Plains states, Senior Meteorologist Paul Pastelok said.

    The northern central Rockies with also still be in a warm pattern, Pastelok said.

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