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The ups and downs of winter

Published March 24. 2012 09:01AM

We all complain when it's cold and snowy about how lousy winter can be to us. But this year some of us have been grumbling about the lack of winter we have had. Granted for most of us, the complaints have been few and far between. In fact for most of us, the reprieve from the normal weeks of sub-zero temperatures, blinding snowstorms and numbing winds has been almost a wonderful surprise. It definitely has been a blessing to our wallets in savings to our heating bills which have been high enough with rising costs of oil.

Everything seems to work itself out in a way. Many schools were caught off guard throughout Pennsylvania by the torrential rains and flooding followed by the horrendous blizzard at Halloween and ended up prematurely using snow days to handle those emergencies only to discover many had no need of them for the winter when they are normally needed. A pleasant surprise I would imagine for sure. The flu is another nasty winter visitor that seems to have miraculously spared much of the country this year during the warmer than normal season. It could be that the warmer winter has allowed people outside more than usual and not kept us as confined which makes the bug easier to spread. That was definitely a plus for sure.

Not everything is positive about this wonderful warmer than usual winter I would say however. Many seasonal businesses suffered. Ski resorts suffered quite a bit from the lack of snowfall. The warm temperatures made it difficult to make and keep snow on the mountains and it did not lend itself to making people feel like wanting to ski or participate in winter sports. It's hard to feel like skiing in short sleeves. One cannot skate on water either.

Many folks count on winter weather to earn extra money as well. Landscape businesses and those with plows depend on snow to make extra money plowing roads and streets and shoveling sidewalks and businesses. Many haven't even been able to attach their plows to their trucks and have lost thousands of dollars in revenue. Chemical companies have lost thousands of dollars in revenue by being unable to sell salt and other chemicals used to treat roads and sidewalks to keep them from being slippery because there has been very little if any ice and snow. Many of these businesses have storerooms with pallets full of products that have gone unsold because of the missing winter. It is almost as if Mother Nature was aware the economy is suffering and added her own two cents to the mix to flatten the economy even further. I doubt anyone took notice.

While I'm appreciative that the mild winter probably saved me some oil money and spared me a few vacation days from my job, I really did miss those few days of sitting by the window watching the snowflakes fall. I will admit I did not yearn for those aching biceps and sore back muscles from shoveling that wet snow and heavy ice piled in front of my garage after a snowfall so we could get our cars on the road again. It was nice to have a winter without a flood of water in my basement from that inevitable ice storm that dumped water on the frozen ground in such quantity that it entered my basement instead of soaking into the ground instead of running down the street. That always happened once a winter. Not enough to damage anything, but enough to wet the back floor and be annoying to me so I did not miss that this winter.

I have to say though the past few days I have almost felt confused as to which month it is. If I was not working on getting my taxes completed I would swear it was late April. I looked out the back door this afternoon and saw the buds on my lilac bushes this afternoon. I might be wrong, but as I write this it is only the first day of spring. I don't ever remember my lilac bushes waking up on the first day of spring. They are eager to get started I suppose.

The only thing that bothers me is I don't believe that the cycle never really reset itself. In order for life to really begin anew, old life has to die and without a true winter the old life never really died and while we all feel like we put one over on old man Winter we may live to regret Jack Frost passing us by last year. Without winter, it's possible the lack of a deep freeze and snow cover may not have killed the molds and fungus that cause allergies as well as killing the bugs and ticks that plague so many of us. That could cause problems as the season warms again and they continue to multiply once more. The lack of snow cover also means there was no deep freeze and thaw which means the water table has no slow replenishment as well so only time will tell what effect that has on our water supplies.

The irony there is that we could go from a super-saturated state of six months ago to a near drought state a year later. If only we could find a happy medium, maybe next year….

Til next time…

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