A Year After Irene, a New Normal in New England

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This week marks the one year anniversary of the landfall of Hurricane Irene, and subsequent devastation and disruption that the storm caused throughout our region. The storm was a tremendous reminder of the forces that shaped the land and landscape that we love, and that though we celebrate her beauty, Mother Nature’s power is not to be underestimated.

The financial cost of the storm in New England has topped one billion dollars, with Vermont leading the tally sheet with 500 miles of roads, 34 bridges and 3,500 homes damaged or destroyed. It was the toll to families and communities that was most heart-wrenching though, with a cost that simply cannot be assessed.

New England is forever changed after Irene, but it has been amazing to see the communities coming together and rallying back. Initial relief was generally swift and organized, with long term rebuilding efforts moving forward with great planning and forethought.

The impact to leaf peepers and visitors this fall should be quite minimal, with nearly every road patched and nearly every trail re-stabilized thanks to incredible efforts by professional and volunteer crews across the region. The overall message from state tourism boards…New England is open for business and ready to share our beautiful fall season with you.

Zealand Reconstruction

The Zealand Area of the White Mountain National Forest was particularly hard hit by Hurricane Irene. A new bridge now spans the wetlands near where the old one was destroyed. Photo courtesy Michael Saletnik

It won’t be long now either, as Labor Day weekend is upon us, which marks the traditional end of summer.  Evenings are already coming earlier, and though days are still longer than nights, the gap is closing. Longer nights allow for a greater settling of the air, and recent mornings have been cool, quiet and still.

The autumn air at dawn is often filled with morning mist, but it can also capture and concentrate the familiar smells of autumn during the overnight. The Concord grapes that grow behind my house announced their ripening in an overwhelming rush to the olfactory this morning…a bit ahead of schedule, but none the less welcome.

Concord Grapes, Which Grow Wild in Many New England Forests, Are Ripening

Concord Grapes, Which Grow Wild in Many New England Forests, Are Ripening

Also early this year are this year’s crop of apples, where there are apples at least. The strange spring weather, with frost after the trees flowered, has destroyed the crop at some orchards.  Checking in around New England though, it seems the frost has been hit or miss, there are plenty of apples that survived and are waiting to be picked.  I’m hopeful that by next week’s blog, I’ll have an apple pie and a grape pie under my belt!

Gould Hill Farm

Gould Hill Farm, in Contoocook, NH is opening this weekend for PYO Apples. Because of their hilltop location, their early blossoms were safe from the spring frosts.

With the fall fruits and the overall harvest coming early this year, I had thought that perhaps the swamp maples would be turning this week as well. With the dry summer though, the swamp maples are left a bit more high and dry than usual, and the color is actually a bit late. I’d therefore look for some nice color to emerge in the wetland areas this coming week!

Other signs abound as well. School is back in session, and the sounds of high school football will fill the small towns this Friday night. The farm stands are full of the summer’s bounty, but autumn flowers, chrysanthemums and kale are now along side. Local swimming holes are cooling below inviting temperatures, and autumn brews are replacing summer seasonal at the local watering holes.

One final sign of the approaching autumn this week is the arrival of Yankee Magazine’s autumn issue on the newsstands. The beautiful cover is quintessentially New England, and the the autumn feature, which covers our fall season from ‘A to Z’ is garnering much acclaim.

The issue also introduces a new photo contest, which will be discussed at length here in next week’s foliage blog.  I’ll also be providing helpful tips to get the most out of your camera when capturing autumn photos this fall.

Until then, have a great Labor Day weekend!


  • I see that New England is turning colors–maybe a bit early. I am coming in mid October so please save some bright leaves for you trip! Praying for a long fall foliage season!

  • Love your article and breathing a big ahhh, as the heat and humidity of this summer is going. I make wild grape jelly and once you have tasted it you will never go back to Concord Grape Jelly. Looking forward to doing photo opts of the foliage and hope it will be good. Heavy rain predicted for middle of this week. Hope it does not spoil the color. Put a couple of my photos on Yankee New England Photography and hope to learn alot from some of the other folks on there. I have been shooting everyday all summer and it is amazing what you find not far from home. Thanks for your articles, enjoy them very much.

  • Ahhhhhhhhhhhh! The mention of grape pie rouses my taste buds. We too have a concord grape vine and grape pie has been a favorite pie of ours for years and years. I don’t often find anyone who appreciates the unusual and delicious flavor of this unusual pie. Must go check my vine. We live in central Pa and usually the grapes are ready near the end of September but I think they will be early this year. We are traveling to Vermont Sept 18-21 and hope to see good foliage. Will be watching your blog for updates.


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