The Cumberland Times-News Monthly Column


October: Will The Fall Folliage Season Deliver? 

September 30, 2023 -  Now that Mother Nature put a surprising dent in the summer rainfall deficit by overdelivering in September, will this be enough to save the trees and allow for a brilliant foliage season? We’re ending September with about as fantastic weather we could ask for! No rain, no heat or bone-chilling cold weather. Let’s step right into October and unveil the foliage and Autumn Glory Festival forecast!

The teleconnection patterns in the Pacific and Atlantic favor a warm start to October. Outdoor
barbecues and trips to Constitution Park or Rocky Gap will be met with dry weather and warm 70s (cooler 60s in Garrett County). A cooler blast will arrive from the northern Rockies in about a week that will trigger more leaves to turn color. Likely west of Route 36 will be cold enough for the first frost of the season, but not a hard freeze that ends the growing season.

The chill will be transient as an upper-level ridge pushes back into the East and temperatures warm above average yet again during the middle of the month. Several days before Halloween will come our next shot of cooler than average temperatures. This cool spell will put the icing on the cake to wrap up the growing season. Freeze Warnings will be issued and we’ll wake up to a hard frost across the region. 

Historically, the first hard frost of the season in Cumberland is October 19 and in Garrett County it’s September 25. This year it will be later than average, which is not surprising. Other than one to two years within the last decade, the first hard frost has been at least a week behind schedule. 

The five-day celebration of the 56th Autumn Glory Festival will occur during the transition back to warmer temperatures following the month’s first chill. There is a threat for rain, but it would only occur for a few hours during one of the days, most likely Friday or Saturday of the festival weekend. 

As for rainfall trends for the entire month of October, expect less than average amounts in the Potomac Highlands and western Maryland. This means just a hair below 2.82 inches in Cumberland to less than 3.61 inches in Garrett County.

Since rainfall each month of summer was slightly below-average up until September and warmth has dominated over the cooler days, the fall colors won’t live up to their full capacity. They will still be a treat to see, but the deeper reds and vibrant oranges won’t be evident. The exception is western Allegany into Garrett County where more rain this summer has kept the trees from suffering heat stress.

Nationally, the Southeast and Florida are in for a wet October. This is due in part to the expected persistence of an active hurricane season coupled with El Nino flexing its muscle. The subtropical jet stream will be enhanced in October and lead to periodic weather systems pushing across the Southeast.

The other spots in the nation that stand out for above average precipitation (mountain snow) is the Pacific Northwest, northern Rockies and Upper Mississippi Valley. Otherwise, the Plains and Mississippi Valley south of Minnesota will continue to dig deeper into drought. As a matter of fact, a few spots in the Lower Mississippi Valley are approaching dangerous low levels of water.
Take for instance the Mississippi at New Madrid, Mo., which will likely reach a record low water level by early October. The most recent low water record is just one year ago in mid-October. So, this past summer into early fall is a repeat performance of last year for the drought-stricken Lower Mississippi Valley. 

The 2024 Hagerstown Town and Country Almanack had a great time greeting followers and perspective readers last weekend at the Great Frederick Fair. We hope to return again next year to showcase our publication, so if you want to meet and greet the staff, we hope to see you there! If you would like to purchase a copy of the 2024 almanack, either visit and order online, or contact Sales Manager Jerry Spessard at 301-491-4002.




Chad Merrill is a Cumberland native and meteorologist who not only serves as the Hagerstown Town and Country Almanack weather prognosticator but is also senior meteorologist at Earth Networks in Germantown.  M
errill has previously been meteorologist with WDVM (formerly known as NBC25) in Hagerstown and at WJAC-TV in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Most recently, Merrill was named chief meteorologist at WOAY-TV in Oak Hill, West Virginia. After a rigourous evaluation,  Merrill  was awatrded the National Weather Association (NWA) Seal of Approval.  According to the association, only 1,045 meteorologists currently hold the NWA Seal of Approval.   Feel free to contact him at or 240-285-8476.