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October 11, 2013

Holiday forecast: Heavy traffic, peak foliage

Visitors should expect peak foliage, heavy traffic


“This is going to be the weekend to go,” he said. “A lot of the regions are at peak color or close to peak, so there is color everywhere.”

Much of the White Mountains is in full color, including North Conway and Jackson, while Gorham and Shelburne are between 80 and 100 percent, according to Freligh’s office. It’s also at 100 percent peak in parts of the Lakes Region, including Madison and Ossipee.

That compares to only 80 percent for Southern New Hampshire communities such as Derry. Other towns near the Bay State border, such as Goffstown and New Boston, are only at 50 percent.

A perfect combination of warm days and cool nights this fall has produced spectacular foliage, according to forester Karen Bennett of the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension.

The fact there has been only one major rainfall this autumn has also been a factor, she said.

“The most beautiful foliage can disappear overnight if we get one of those real blustery fall storms,” Bennett said.

She wasn’t willing to go out onto a limb to compare this season with others in recent years, which UNH botany professor Barrett Rock has said were largely affected by climate change, resulting in poor, muted foliage

Two years ago was one of the worst ever, he said at the time. Above-average rain, heat and humidity — along with a fungus outbreak — ravaged the foliage.

There are no storms in sight this weekend, according to the National Weather Service. Today will be mostly cloudy, but it’s expected to be mostly sunny tomorrow through Monday. Temperatures will be in the 60s.

But while enjoying the sunny weather and foliage in the White Mountain National Forest, don’t expect to just pull into the closest parking lot and get out.

Gates to some of the parking areas may be locked because of the shutdown, but the woods and hiking trails remain accessible, Freligh said.

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