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Posted: September 22, 2017

It’s almost autumn. Can you tell in South Florida?

Doesn’t this look like autumn to you? (Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)
Conrad
Doesn’t this look like autumn to you? (Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)

By Barbara Marshall

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Editor’s Note: Like fall, this story comes around annually. Parts of it have run previously, but it captures that elusive feeling of Florida fall so well that we thought we’d share it again.

 

Every year, there’s one day in mid-September when Florida’s fall arrives.

 

Officially, that day is Friday, Sept. 22, but I noticed it early one morning last week.

 

Stepping outside at about 6:30, it felt, well, not cool but slightly less oppressive. There was a breeze and the low that morning had dropped to an almost glacial 77.

 

It felt like hope.

 

When I left work that evening, it was again tolerable. Pleasant, even. And that’s when I saw fall.

 

The sky was blue instead of wearing summer white.

 

The light suddenly looked different because the sun is tracking lower in the sky. A soft golden hue had replaced summer’s kleig-light glare.

 

It looks like fall because the sun has swung noticeably south of its solstice in the northern latitudes. For a moment, day and night are almost of equal length, before the nights greedily gain on the day.

 

That’s how you know it’s fall in South Florida. The light changes long before the temperature.

 

Rejoice. The rest is coming.

 

Soon.

 

We Floridians get defensive about fall in the face of Northern fall aggression.

 

There are no colorful leaves. No brisk wind blowing chimney smoke around. No need for flannel, or down or wool.

 

If you want a chill, be prepared to write FPL a bigger check. Tropical waves are still billowing up from the Gulf and the Cape Verde Islands are still birthing alarming low pressure systems. The weekly mowing hasn’t slowed.

 

By some standards, that’s faux fall.

 

In Florida, our plants and our weather are boisterously confrontational, but the seasonal changes are milquetoasts.

 

To see them, you must be attuned to nuance.

 

Like the light.

 

When it changes, that’s a Florida fall.

 

In the weeks to come, we’ll have more dry mornings, with a fresh breeze at dawn before the heat takes over. Quivers of high-flying birds have already begun winging overhead heading thousands of miles to the south, to Central America or the Southern Caribbean, some dropping down to our yards for a night or two.

 

That’s a Florida fall, too.

 

One night, we realize we can sit outside and not sweat through our clothes. Not long after that, we realized the pool is too cool for our thin tropical blood.

 

That too, is a Florida fall.

 

We search, usually in vain, for summer clothes in darker winter colors. And gaze longingly at boots. That’s the frustrating fashion version of a Florida fall.

 

But soon boots won’t feel quite so ridiculous.

 

The median end of the rainy season in South Florida is Oct. 17, according to the National Weather Service.

 

That’s the big seasonal switch that turns on a Florida fall.

 

Not yet, but soon.

 

In the next few weeks, a cold front will likely make its first stab at the peninsula. The first few don’t usually push far enough south to comfort us, but soon.

 

Weak early fall cold fronts seem to batter against the stubborn steamy heat until one with a little more oomph finally pushes past the Keys.

 

That’s a Florida fall.

 

Soon.


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