This has certainly been an unusually hot and dry autumn so far, but recent rounds of severe thunderstorms have turned our short-term dry conditions around. Yesterday, the River Gorge Explorer returned to the Chattanooga Pier as ominous clouds were moving into the downtown area. Our thoughts go out to those who suffered damage from the tornado that touched down at the Chickamauga Dam about 10 miles upstream from the Tennessee Aquarium.
Many people don't realize that southeast Tennessee has a secondary severe weather season in early November. Most of our severe weather occurs in the spring, but the atmospheric ingredients come together in just the right fashion this time of year as the air masses collide with the transition to autumn. You can keep track of current weather conditions in Chattanooga with a real-time, high-definition webcam here: http://www.tnaqua.org/Education/WeatherBug.aspx
Before the storms, we enjoyed the fall colors in the Gorge. Our timing for the cruise worked out well as we missed showers that occurred early in the afternoon and missed the severe weather later last evening. Aquarium naturalist John Dever supplied us with the images above and says the recent rains seem to have brought out some of the autumn hues. Here's his weekly fall color and wildlife update: "The rains came and the fall color really seemed to perk up, from a dull dry crispy appearance on Sunday to a fresh, new sharpness. The evergreens of places like the Dividing Hollow (seen above showing eastern hemlock), and Palisades (Virginia pine), are coming into stark relief against the colorful surrounding forest. Much of the forest is still green, especially the water oaks along the river, so there is more color to come. The Williams Island area has been hosting some great egrets and a more consistent presence of our Brown's Ferry Eagles (pictured above). A couple of young osprey are still fishing the Gorge and our crows and vultures are also present in big numbers."
With prime autumn weather conditions forecast for the next several days, now might be a great time to enjoy the scenery and a relaxing trip into "Tennessee's Grand Canyon."
Check out schedule for Awesome Autumn Fall Leaf Cruises aboard the River Gorge Explorer.