Changing of leaves right on schedule

KINGSPORT, Tenn. - The first day of autumn, according to the calendar, is not until September 22. Temperatures here have been at or below normal for about two weeks already and rainfall is above normal. That has some people concerned that the leaves will change earlier than normal.

"The view is the best part of it," said tourist Gary Sexton.

School groups, families and tourists like Sexton come to the mountains this time of year to enjoy the changing of the colors, but some are concerned that it may be coming sooner than expected. News 5 caught up with naturalist Fred Hilton, who told us that it is hard to tell.

"Predicting what leaves will do is very difficult. You never really know. A lot of it depends upon weather, the types of days that we have, the types of nights we have," said Hilton.

Hilton has been a naturalist for 14 years and he tells us a lot of variables affect when the leaves change, rain being one of them. "We're a little over 6 inches above normal. I don't think that's enough to have any effect on leaf color," said Hilton.

We learned that we are not far off of the average timing for the leaves. Hilton says that we can expect the leaves to change around the same time as last year. "If I had to make an educated guess, probably about the third week in October," said Hilton.

Hilton said that even if the leaves do change early, it would not affect tourism at Bays Mountain one bit. "When the leaves start changing there will definitely be people coming here. So if they peak a little earlier than usual, our crowds will also come a little earlier than usual," said Hilton.

We also learned that the sour wood trees are expected to change about a week earlier than all of the others.

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