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A guide to leaf viewing this fall in East Tennessee.
Steve Ahillen

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — In 2016, the fall foliage wasn’t great in eastern Tennessee.

The eight-month-long drought and hot summer combined to make east Tennessee’s usually spectacular fall foliage show as lightweight as a leaf in the wind.

“It was very short because we didn’t have any moisture,” said Wayne Clatterbuck, a professor in forestry, wildlife and fisheries studies at University of Tennessee, Knoxville. “The leaves just turned brown and died.”

A bright, colorful outlook for 2017

This year is a different story. The area is nearly five inches above its annual rainfall total year-to-date and conditions could be ideal for another fall show like the area had in 2015.

“I think we are going to have a great year,” Clatterbuck said. “There could be things happening between now and mid-October, but we have plenty of moisture. We would love to have cool nights and warm days, and that makes the pigment more vibrant. You want to have it drop down in the 40s or high 30s at night.

More: What’s the fall color outlook for Western North Carolina?

“We don’t want an early frost which could kill everything, but we usually don’t have that around here.”

The weather seems willing to comply.

Derek Eisentrout of the National Weather Service office in Morristown, Tenn., said the temperature has a strong chance of being above normal, September through November. Rainfall is likely to at least match the monthly average.

“We are looking at things down the road that would tend to make you believe that things will be warmer than normal,” he said.