Our fall tourism was normal in numbers of visitors and the number of events held. Visitors came and they filled our hotels, campgrounds, B&B's and rental cabins. They will keep coming at least through Thanksgiving, but that is where the similarities end. When it comes to the environmental conditions things are very different than any year since I have been in tourism and for everyone I talk to, we have witnessed the hottest driest summer and fall on record. The southeast, including our area has been blanketed in smoke from thousands of wildfires throughout the region and a number of them in our area. The heat and the drought have devastated ponds, rivers, creeks and our waterfalls are 100% dry for the first time anyone seems to remember. Trees are dying and some will not come back out. The heat and the drought were too much and when spring comes some trees will not bud again. When I moved here I planted Hemlock and Spruce trees that are known to grow here in tree hardiness Zone 7 according the Arbor Day Foundation. In fact, there are a number of native stands of Hemlocks in North Alabama, but this year seems to have crossed the line. These trees are more typical in points a little further north and I fear trees like the Hemlocks, Blue Spruce and Norway Spruce along with woody plants like Rhododendron and Mountain Laurel will have a high death rate due to the excess heat and drought. I hope I am wrong. Overall, I feel climate change might move Zone 7 further north when climate calculations are revised.
Overall, we did not get many complaints from tourists disappointed that our fall color was not quite up to normal, but it was still good. Some were disappointed we had no waterfalls, but those came from people who lived outside the drought area that did not know how dry it was here. Those that live in our region kind of expected there would be very little water or none.
I hope the late fall and winter rains will come soon to restore our rivers and creeks and bring water to our ponds, trees and wildlife.