February 2, 2016

Weather gets its holidays mixed up

WASHBob Ellis/staff photographer
With the warmer weather and no snow on the ground, a customer washes his truck at Squeaky Clean Car Wash off Route 281 in Cortlandville Monday afternoon.

Associate Editor

Monday was a great start to April.
The high topped 50 degrees, although it dropped throughout the day. Mixed sun. Nice spring breeze. Perfect weather for planting a garden. In fact, the daffodils were poking their noses through the soil.
This is Mother Nature’s idea of an April Fool’s Day joke on Groundhog Day, right?
January was 2.2 degrees warmer than normal, with a mean temperature of 23.6 instead of 21.4, says a National Weather Service meteorologist in Binghamton. That’s a bit warm, but December was more than 13 degrees warmer than normal — with a mean of 41 degrees instead of 27.
That means the ice on many waterways is not safe for ice fishing.
In fact, the 2016 Almost Annual Crappie Derby, a fixture in northern Broome County for decades, has been canceled this year.
“The latest official ice thickness readings from Whitney Point Lake last Friday showed only 7 1/2 inches of ice on the west side of the lake,” said derby coordinator Dave Hughes. “The pond area had 9 inches, but bringing all areas to a safe level would have been very unlikely.”
The event would have been Feb. 13. “We were advised that this coming week, we would expect significant warming and more than a little rain,” Hughes said. “Strong El Nino seasons and ice growth don’t work well together.”
In fact, expect highs in the 40s today, and rain and highs in the 50s on Wednesday. Any snow and ice that remain are likely to be gone by Thursday morning, said weather service meteorologist Raymond Brady.
“After that, we’ll settle into a colder pattern” Brady said, but that’s not likely to freeze enough ice at Whitney Point to save the Crappie Derby. Last year, it had 12 inches of ice, enough to safely draw more than 1,500 people.
If that’s not bad enough for snow bunnies, the rain Wednesday will likely wash away what tiny amount of snow cover exists.
“We’re having a snow drought,” Brady said. Cortland has received just 11 inches of snow since December — with frequent melts. A typical winter hereabouts sees about 67 inches of snow by now.
How does 11 inches compare? Brady didn’t have Cortland figures, but the driest winter in Syracuse saw 19.3 inches by Jan. 31, 1995. The next driest was 28.5 inches by Jan. 31, 2002.
This year, Syracuse has seen 38.8 inches through January, but it got walloped by a couple of school-canceling storms that entirely missed Cortland County.
“It’s been a relatively snowless winter,” Brady said.
Must be frustrating for snowmobilers. Ski centers can at least make snow, but the snowmobilers rely solely on the weather, and need at least 6 inches for safe use of the trails.
“Pretty dismal out there,” said Randy Gutchess of Marathon, an officer with the Marathon Snow Dusters. The woods near his home has about 2 inches, and his hayfield is bare. So he spends his days puttering about with his brother, hoping for a bit of snow. No luck. “It’s discouraging — the Northeast relies on snow to make money.”
Ski centers, plow operators, salt mines — any kind of winter tourism — need snow and cold before the cash registers heat up.
“The Tug Hill is the only place in the state that has snow,” said snowmobiler Steve Furlin, the Solon town supervisor, who was staring at green grass in his front yard. “But there are thousands of snowmobilers on the same trails; it gets old quick.”
“They’re going to lose it today and tomorrow,” Gutchess added.
“Weather does affect the economy,” said Furlin. “If we don’t get the weather, we don’t get the money.”
But hope remains. The winter of 1992-93 was pretty mild, too, until it coughed up a tidy 38-inch blizzard — on St. Patrick’s Day.

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