Thursday, March 22, 2012

What ever happened to winter?

In case you hadn't noticed, spring has sprung. It was official in the early morning hours just a couple of days ago, when the vernal equinox occurred and daytime caught up with night for the first time since last September. But while we all know it can backfire, with another round of cold weather always in the realm of possibility, the smart choice is this: Enjoy it while you got it.
But the early spring that's being experienced in many parts of the country begs an interesting question:
What ever happened to winter?
The snow-less Illinois Christmas that disappointed my Carolina grandsons was just a precursor to an easy-going season that saw me fire up my trusty snowblower just a couple of times during the month of January before we headed back to the NC shores. And that was really only because making noise and mechanically throwing snow great distances is lots more fun than shoveling.
Meanwhile, the real Great White North was mostly brown.
The behemoth, electric-start, two-stage snowblower we gave son Colin for Christmas sat idle in their Northwest Minnesota garage for most of the season, while the annual dog sled race that takes place near my sister's home on the snowy shores of Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan had to be re-routed due to lack of white stuff on the trails.
But while we all know that warm winters are less-than-welcome events for folks like snowmobilers, ski resort owners and polar bears, I was a little surprised by the some of the other bad news headlines I've been stumbling upon over the past few days.
"Seasonal allergies striking early with mild winter, warm temperatures," warned the Green Bay Press Gazette, while North Carolina's Gaston Gazette predicted "a pollen count that packs a punch, along with a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes and other nagging insects."
You only have to listen to the constant sniffles emanating from my daughter-in-law and grandsons to know that the pollen has, indeed, started making its mark.
Vermont Public radio noted that "with mild winter, mud season comes early," which is true, I guess, but inevitable, as well.
But it was the lordly New York Times, that bastion of worldwide news and information, that proclaimed the most dire result of our recent unseasonable season:
"A mild winter means a longer tick season."
My mind's-eye immediately produced a vision of giant, blood-sucking arachnids roaming the streets of Manhattan, while tussling with the giant albino alligators that reportedly inhabit the city's sewers.
Maybe not, but it could happen.
On the other hand, our mild winter has meant lower heating bills, less state and municipal money spent on snow and ice removal, fewer potholes, fewer cases of the flu, and midwest track, baseball and softball seasons that might not require parkas and blankets to be enjoyed this year.
It has, in fact, actually been warmer back in Illinois than here on the North Carolina shore, though I'm not griping about the sunny, mid-70s days that recently prompted grandson Cyrus to wonder if he could bring his boogie board down to the beach for a spot of body surfing.
Not quite yet, buddy, but maybe soon.
But the most astonishing warm-weather news came from my niece, Ann, a member of the Upper Peninsula tribe, who posted this remark on her kids' activities on Facebook a few days ago. But before you read it, know this...the U.P. is often the land of the September snowstorm and the Fourth of July freeze. And Lake Superior is just plain cold, even in the brief summertime season they call August.
"'s March 17th and where are the Armstrong girls? They are swimming in Lake Superior!! It's 80 degrees today and they have all been submerged in the water. The beach is amazing. We had to walk through snow to get there, but once you are on the beach it seems like it's mid June."
Amazing, indeed. Especially the part about the snow that still lingers in the gully between the house and the giant dune that fronts the beach.
I just hope they watched out for ticks.

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