Wallop missing from wimpy winter, but it's not over yet

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Thursday, March 1, 2012
— Is it too early to talk about the winter that wasn't?

Probably not.

March came in like a kitten rather than the proverbial lion. Even the snow predicted in the next seven days probably will start mixed with rain and be followed by temps in the 40s and even 50s.

"It's looking like we probably dodged a bullet as far as the worst that winter can bring," said Jake Wimberley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service stationed near Sullivan.

"I wouldn't completely write it off, but with the sun at the angle it is now—getting higher in the sky—it has an increasing power to erode snow cover if it does fall."

Wimberley said rain and some snow is predicted over the next seven days, but the snow would be followed by temps in the 40s and 50s.

By then, we're heading into mid-March. It's not going to get much colder after that, Wimberley said.

Janesville temps registered zero and below only four times this winter compared to an average total of 16 by this time of year. Highs were consistently above normal, with heating-degree days registering the fourth-lowest since 1948.

People golfed in January.

Bike enthusiasts could wheel about wearing only insulated sweatshirts all but three or four days.

The city's outdoor ice rink never froze enough for skating.

The Blackhawk Golden K Kiwanis couldn't get their Suburban onto the Traxler Park lagoon and instead sold raffle tickets for its annual fundraiser.

Tom Presny, Janesville's parks director, reported no outdoor skating and little sledding. It is the first time he can remember in 28 years that residents weren't able to skate outside. Last year, skaters got six weeks out of the new rink.

City crews got projects done that they normally wouldn't, including restoration work in greenbelts.

The Rock River froze but not for long, and the ice chunks that typically float down the river were mostly absent. Geneva Lake never froze over, disappointing ice boaters.

Tim Malterer, owner of Malterer's Mowing and Plowing in Janesville, agreed it's been an unusual winter.

He plows for the majority of his customers when two inches of snow falls, and normally he does that about 12 times a year. This year, he's done it four.

Looking on the bright side, he figures he'll be mowing earlier.

Ice fishing was dismal, and Bob Clark of Trep's Bait & Tackle in Indianford said people are already fishing over the dam, a couple of weeks earlier than usual.

The ice normally freezes about 10 to 20 feet out into his section of the river, but not this year, he said.

Mark Dwyer, director of Horticulture at Rotary Botanical Gardens, thinks we've seen the worst of it this year. He's watched flowers open there four to six weeks early.

The frost already is out of the ground in some places, and staff has been pulling the winter light show stakes from the ground and begun spring cleanup. That usually happens in mid- to late March.

Normally, he'd worry that a lack of snow would not protect plants from a blast of sub-zero temps.

But, "based on what I'm hearing, we're going to have a mild March," Dwyer said. "I think, for this year, everything seems to be shifting about six weeks early.

"We've already started spring clean-up," he said. "We've pruned the entire gardens, which we've never done, from one end to the other."

Dwyer said we'll find out this summer whether the temps ever got cold enough long enough to kill insect pests.

Wimberley in Sullivan said he would not write winter off yet.

But this part of Wisconsin normally doesn't get prolonged cold spells in March, he said. Even an Arctic blast wouldn't pack a normal punch because of the lack of snow cover.

"Since when do February showers bring March flowers?" Dwyer mused on his garden blog.

"It certainly was an odd winter."

Last updated: 8:02 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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