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Autumn falls on Clayton County

By Ed Brock

In the brilliant sun of summer's last day Cassandra Rapaich and her friends laid out by the pool at Clayton Place Apartments in Morrow.

With autumn just one day away, Rapaich, 20, said on Wednesday that she was sure she would be back at the pool before winter.

"I'm from Canada. We don't get this kind of heat," Rapaich said. "Fall here is like summer."

But the coming of fall was not bad news for Rapaich's friend and fellow sunbather and Clayton State University student Haley Compretta.

"I'm ready for the cool weather," Compretta said. "We play soccer so we're in the heat every day."

It's the time of year when the leaves turn, kids settle back into school, and retailers push fall deals. But the temperatures in Clayton and Henry counties are expected to stay in the upper 80s for highs and mid 60s for lows until at least Sunday, according to the National Weather Service office in Peachtree City.

"Usually by now we've had a few cool spells, and we have had some in the evenings," said meteorologist Matt Sena. "It starts getting a lot more likely (for noticeably cooler weather to occur) as we approach the end of the month and October."

While many are hoping for some heat relief, Grant Allen is hoping the cool nights will help cool his crops.

Allen and his wife Susie own Yule Forest Christmas tree farm and pumpkin patch in McDonough. He says it's the cool nights of fall that result in his pumpkins' bright orange color. "Cool nights are what give you a better color on your pumpkin," he said. "We're hoping over the next couple of weeks we'll get some 50s, and if we do, the pumpkins' color will be better."

Grant's pumpkin patch so far has only a handful of orange jack-o-lanterns in the making. Most of them are green orbs, or various combinations of green and orange speckles. But the patch, which he says is the southern-most he knows of commercially farming pumpkins, doesn't officially open until Oct. 8.

"We're really on the southern-most border of where you can raise a pumpkin," he said.

The Old Farmer's Almanac 2006 edition calls for the average temperature in October drop down to 64.5 degrees, after a September averaging 73 degrees. For the period November through March, Farmer's predicts an average temperature 1 degree colder than normal.

The almanac said snow and ice were more likely in the Southeastern U.S. after mid-January and that winter precipitation will be above normal. Sena said the NWS is expecting a fairly normal fall and winter.

As the temperatures drop and the leaves change many Atlanta area residents head north into the Georgia mountains. In Helen, the faux Bavarian village popular with such tourists, Octoberfest has already begun (it's billed as the world's longest version of the famous German fall festival).

Right now the "oompah" music, German food and drinks and polkas are happening Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, said Eileen Lund with the Helen Welcome Center. But come October the festivities will be every week night and afternoons and evenings on Saturday and Sunday.

But the leaves haven't changed yet.

"We usually estimate that to happen the middle to end of October, but who knows with the weather we've been having," Lund said.

Daily Herald staff writer Michael Davis contributed to this story.