Where's winter? Season continues strange turn
On Page 1A of the Jan. 11 Gazette, the arrival of winter was incorrectly reported. It was not actually winter but a brief spell of snow and cold. The Gazette apologizes for the error.
All journalists hate filing corrections.
They—the corrections, not the journalists—destroy morale, heighten anxiety and make the writer feel like a nincompoop.
On Wednesday, Jan. 11, I reported that winter—"actual winter, with snow and cold"—would begin that evening. The storm kicked off winter with 6.7 inches.
Now, less than three weeks later, winter is going away.
Today, temperatures are predicted to be in the low 40s for south central Wisconsin, according to the National Weather Service in Sullivan. Then, from Wednesday to Friday, expect temperatures in the low- to mid-40s.
Add to that a prediction for partly to mostly sunny conditions, and you've got some fine spring days. Not that I'm predicting spring—that's a correction just waiting to happen.
What's going on with the weather?
According to Gazette weather records, which date to 1948, Janesville averages 11 days between Nov. 1 and Jan. 30 when the temperature dips below zero. This year, we've had four days.
Ed Townsend, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Sullivan, said conditions are the result of two weather patterns.
First, a low-pressure system will be taking a more northern route—think of it as a winter detour—toward Lake Superior.
Then, later in the week, a second system will bring warmer, southwesterly winds from the southern Great Plains.
Alex Sosnowski, a meteorologist for AccuWeather.com, said lack of snow in the Midwest was a "double-edged sword"—not an original simile, but an apt one.
"While inevitably municipalities, county and highway departments save tax dollars and people save money on heating costs, there are those who rely on winter storm clean-up dollars to help put food on the table," Sosnowski said.
The weather also has been a serious challenge for those who enjoy outdoor sports.
Rock County Parks Department and the Welty Environmental Center had planned a candlelight ski and snowshoe event for Beckman Mill County Park for Jan. 13. Organizers started the week hoping for some snow. At the end of week, the event had to be canceled.
"There wasn't any snow the week before," said Joleen Stinson, community coordinator for Rock County Parks. "Then on Friday they predicted high winds—nobody wants to go on a candlelight hike when all the candles are out."
Of course, the predicted winds never came.
Somebody should issue a correction.
Stinson has a snowshoe event planned for this weekend at Carver-Roehl Park, but she's concerned that the weather might cause a cancellation.
At the Blackhawk Curling Club on the Rock County 4-H Fairgrounds, the icemakers have been keeping a careful eye on conditions.
Curling ice is harder than hockey ice, and it's crucial for the game that ice sheets are perfectly level. Cooling pipes run under the concrete floor, and the icehouse itself is kept at about 40 degrees.
"It's like a refrigerator on it's back," said Aaron Richards, ice-making guru and longtime club member.
Ideal conditions include a hard freeze in November followed by snow, Richards said. The freeze provides a good frost layer under the playing surface and the snow provides insulation.
Several years ago, club members insulated the walls and the sides of the icehouse, and that's helped with both electricity bills and ice conditions.
The curling season ends March 28.
What will the weather be like then?
We're not making any predictions.
Rock County Parks Community Coordinator Joleen Stinson isn't giving up on the weather just yet.
Stinson, along with staff at the Welty Environmental Center at Beckman Mill County Park, continue to plan for winter events.
These events will be held, weather permitting:
-- Snowshoe hike, 10 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Feb. 4, at Carver-Roehl Park, 4907 S. Carvers Rock Road, Clinton. A limited number of adult and children's snowshoes are available, so advance registration is required. Call (608) 757-5473. Cost is $5 per person.
-- Full moon snowshoe, cross country ski and hike, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 7, at Beckman Mill County Park, 11450 S. County H, Beloit. Registration fee includes the cost of snowshoes on a first-come, first-served basis. Cost is $5 per person with a $20 family maximum. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Call (608) 361-1377 or email email@example.com for registration and more information.
-- Candlelight ski, snowshoe and hike, 5 to 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 17, at Gibbs Lake Park, 9103 W. Gibbs Lake Road, about 12 miles northwest of Janesville. Donations are being accepted for the Rock County Green Fund. No advance registration if required. For information, call (608) 757-5473.