Here’s how Hurricane Ian might impact fall foliage in SC, forestry commission says

Robert Lahser/rlahser@charlotteobserver.com

There are many things about Hurricane Ian that remain uncertain for South Carolina, including what effect rain and wind will have on this year’s leaf season.

Just about the entire state is considered dry or abnormally dry, which diminishes the vibrance of the changing leaves. So, 2 or more inches could boost the colors.

“Generally, the stress of our recent dry summer is going to diminish our fall coloration somewhat,” said Scott Danskin of the South Carolina Forest Service.

And he added rain from Ian might help.

But, he said, “potential heavy rain and wind might also knock down or damage a lot of the leaves, which would not be good for fall color.”

Harvard University, which has a 400-acre forest laboratory, explains on its website that summer drought stresses trees, causing them to lose leaves prematurely or start color production prematurely.

“The right weather during the autumn can promote more intense color production,” the website said. “The reds (anthocyanins), which require sunlight for production, are enhanced by cold and sunny days.”

As of now, the storm could reach the Carolina coasts as early as Thursday.

“Depending on Ian’s eventual track, Southeast NC and Northeast SC will still experience either direct or indirect influences from Ian late this week. This may involve heavy rainfall, strong winds and coastal flooding,” read a news release from the National Weather Service.

In the Midlands, gusty 20-30 mph winds caused by the storm could start Wednesday, when temperatures are forecast to drop.

Danskin said what many across the Southeast are feeling now: “Let’s hope Ian misses us for the most part and we just get a minor rain event.”