Eintime Conversion for education and research 10-20-2007 @ 07:24:19
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Heat robs U.S. regions of prime fall color

By Patrick O'Driscoll, USA TODAY

Summerlike temperatures and lack of rain were likely to delay or dull fall foliage displays in the East and Midwest.

In New England, last week's unusual heat — highs in the 80s and 90s, with records set in cities from Maine to Connecticut — was a factor in the slow onset of "leaf-peeping" season.

In northern Maine, peak color was due this week, about five days later than expected, said Gale Ross of Maine's Department of Conservation.

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"We're slightly behind because of the warm temperatures at night," Ross said.

The unusual warmth was forecast to linger. Persistent high pressure over the eastern third of the country was likely to block cold fronts and bring more above-normal readings this week, said The Weather Channel meteorologist Mark Ressler. "Definitely not what people consider a classic, going-into-October fall," Ressler said.

In Ohio and Indiana, summer dryness could shorten the foliage season and make the colors less showy in some areas. The color forecast was similar for Georgia, where the season normally peaks in late October. "It's still going to be gorgeous," said ecologist Tom Thake of Hoosier National Forest in southern Indiana.

Another possible autumn casualty of summer weather: pumpkins. Heat and lack of rain in July and August hurt autumn crops from New York state to Illinois, the nation's third- and fourth-largest growers. The heat also pushed the harvest ahead up to three weeks in some places, forcing early shipments to market. "It was all those days that we had that were 105 degrees," said southern Illinois grower Sarah Frey.

In some places, too much rain was the culprit. Standing water in pumpkin fields rotted some crops in parts of Illinois, Indiana, southern Michigan and Ohio.

Autumn's warm sweep has come less than two months after the August heat wave was blamed for more than 50 deaths nationwide and average temperatures were at least 10 degrees above normal in numerous parts of the country. It was the warmest August in 113 years of record-keeping in eight states: Alabama, the Carolinas, Florida and Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia. Farther west, several cities including Boise, Reno and Missoula, Mont., tied or set records for their warmest July. Reno didn't get measurable rain for more than 12 weeks.

Nationally, it was the sixth-hottest summer on record, the warmest ever for Nevada and Utah, and among the top 10 on record in 11 other states. Only Oklahoma and Texas were cooler than average.

Last week — the first week of autumn — Houlton, Maine, set a record high of 85 on Wednesday, breaking a 70-year record by 9 degrees. In Manchester, N.H., a high of 85 Thursday surpassed the previous record of 79. Records also were broken or tied in 12 other cities in Delaware, New York, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Contributing: Doyle Rice, The Associated Press

(Original Len: 3259 Condensed Len: 3464)

10-20-2007 @ 07:24:19