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Tornado warnings change to sunny skies as Halloween approaches
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Follow how leaves are changing in state parks online.

Although severe weather across the nation brought tornado watches and warnings to Georgia the first half of the week, forecasters say skies will be clear for Halloween weekend.

A tornado warning was issued for metro Atlanta counties early Wednesday, and a tornado watch extended into the evening for more than 40 counties as conditions remained favorable for the formation of a funnel cloud.

Though the rain continued to increase inch by inch since Monday, the storm wasn't unusual for this time of the year, said Robert Garcia, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Peachtree City.

"We typically see these storms more in November than October, but this is the very end of October, and we're entering the fall severe weather season," he said. "The spring gets more attention because it's coming after the cold weather, but we actually see a strong storm season in the fall as well."

Tornados are most prevalent from March to May, but the fall tornado season starts in October and extends through December. Hurricane season also is June through November, making October ripe for several types of storm systems.

"As the weather cools and the change of the season starts, we see thunderstorms and severe weather," Garcia said. "Depending on what this system does, though, we expect tomorrow (Thursday) to be mostly sunny, and the front will clear through by the time the weekend arrives. We'll see sunny days and clear nights."

With the help of a moderate to strong La Niña expected this winter, the Southeast will be warmer and drier than average through February, according to the annual winter outlook released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center.

La Niña is associated with cooler than normal water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, unlike El Niño which is associated with warmer than normal water temperatures.

Both of the climate changers, which typically occur every two to five years, influence weather patterns throughout the world and often lead to extreme weather events.

"In some of the western areas of the state, we saw a drought starting to develop, and we're not getting as much rain as we would have this week from a tropical event," Garcia said. "La Niña may increase the deficit of rain in some areas of the state. Northeast Georgia is just a half-inch below the norm since Sept. 1."

The National Weather Service confirmed Tuesday that eight tornadoes hit Indiana, four touched down in Ohio and others damaged roads, injured people and crushed homes in Chattanooga, Tenn., Racine County, Wis. and Peotone, Ill.

As the storm clears out of the state today, temperatures in the low 70s will greet hikers and those out to see changing leaf colors. Though the rain rocked a few trees, leaves are reaching their peak brilliant colors this weekend.

"We lost a lot of leaves with the rain, but there's great color and some leaves that are just now turning," said Jerry Brown, lodge manager at Unicoi State Park in Helen.

The park is hosting a 3-mile hike from the lodge to Helen on Saturday to celebrate the leaf season.

"It'll be a beautiful weekend for hiking and leaf looking," Brown said. "Our hiking trail is a really scenic one."

The Department of Natural Resources created Leaf Watch 2010, www.gastateparks.org/LeafWatch, to track how colors are changing in state parks. Last updated on Monday for most parks, local rangers said several parks - including Unicoi State Park, Smithgall Woods in Helen and Amicalola Falls State Park in Dawsonville - are reaching their peak days this week.

"With the rain and the wind, we'll see a lot of early leaf turners on the ground, but the good news is there's a lot of color out there, and we'll continue to see good color over the next several weeks," said Ken Masten, Gainesville district manager for the Georgia Forestry Commission. "There's still a lot of green. Outside of my window I see a full color maple next to a green oak tree, so I think we'll enjoy the leaves for the next several weeks."

 

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