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The next heavy snowfall could damage trees whose leaves haven't fallen

Japanese maple in Penfield
Scott Pitoniak
Japanese maple in Penfield

There may be a price to pay for the mild weather we enjoyed in the late summer and early fall.

The combination of shorter days and cooler temperatures cause a chemical change in leaves that gives them their autumn colors before they fall to the ground.

But the 'cooler temperature' part of that equation was missing this year as we had an unusually warm September and October in the Rochester region and much of New York.

With many trees still holding onto their leaves, an expert at Cornell Cooperative Extension is concerned that a heavy snowfall could cause some damage. Meteorologist Josh Nichols is forecasting wintry weather after December 7. 

"If we were going to get six or eight inches of good, wet, sloppy white stuff with those leaves still in many of those trees, that white stuff is going to stick on the leaves, add weight, and there's going to be branch breakage; there's going to be significant damage, " said Walt Nelson, the Extension's horticulture program leader. He's hoping the strong winds forecast for the next few days will take down some of the leaves.

Mark Quinn, superintendent of horticulture for the Monroe County Parks Department, doesn't expect any widespread damage.

"There are a few species out there they may be affected. I see that the Bradford pears have a significant amount of their leaves left on them and they tend to be weak-wooded. We don't have a lot of those out there. There could be potential damage, but I'm not overly worried."

Neither Quinn nor Nelson anticipate any long term impact on the health of the affected trees.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.