Hope (for spring) springs eternal
WORTHINGTON — It’s no secret that people in the Upper Midwest are fed up with winter.
“But when we look at the record books, this winter for Sioux Falls and the areas around it won’t even break the top 10,” noted Todd Heitkamp, warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls, S.D.
Even though it hasn’t been a record-setter, there are a couple of factors that have made this winter seem particularly brutal, Heitkamp explained.
“One of the reasons the record books won’t show that cold is that a lot of the high temperatures occurred during the nighttime,” he said. “So when we woke up in the morning, then we had falling temperatures during the day, so while we were awake it just seemed so much colder than that.
“We’ve had a lot of small minor storms that produced light snowfall, and we’ve had a lot of windy days, and I think that made it seem so much worse. When you combine that, you get the ground blizzards and bad roads all winter long. … Also we never had that January thaw. … We usually have a good stretch of above-normal weather that would break up the winter, but we never experienced that this winter.”
People are certainly dreaming of not-so-white days to come. An informal poll, conducted via Facebook, elicited the following comments about what people are looking forward to most about warmer weather:
- Walking the bike path
- Not having to “white-knuckle it” through the drifts and ice
- The smell of fresh-cut grass
- Driving in the car with the windows down
- Opening up the windows and letting fresh air into the house
- A round of golf
- Wearing flip-flops
- Flowers peeking through the ground
- Sitting on the deck
- Watching windsurfers on the lake
- Planting fresh herbs
One person even quipped, “Given this long winter, I would even enjoy a mosquito bite right now.”
While the landscape outside is still definitely winter-esque, some signs of impending spring are evident if one just looks for them. At Runnings Fleet & Farm in Worthington, gardening implements, seeds and yard gear are being put out on the shelves. According to employee Dan King, they have already ordered baby chicks for some customers, and the store will have chicks in stock within the next couple of weeks.
“We’ve had people coming in, asking, ‘Where are the chicks?’ because the kids want to see them,” he noted.
Shipments of new spring fashions are arriving every day at The Stag Clothiers in downtown Worthington, and people are starting to come in looking to shed their winter gear in favor of lighter apparel.
“I hear it all the time, everybody is so tired of winter,” said sales associate Robyn Moser, “and I think shopping early makes us feel better, because if we shop earlier, it will come earlier.”
Because the spring merchandise is picked out so far in advance, Moser also gets excited to see what comes out of the boxes.
“We get freight every day,” she said. “It’s like Christmas every day at The Stag, because I don’t remember what I ordered.”
It may be a while before the snow dissipates, the soil warms up and people can dig in their gardens, but preparations are under way at area garden centers for that eventuality.
Clint Rohrer, owner of The Green Garden Place, a seasonal operation located in the parking lot of Schwalbach Ace Hardware on Oxford Street in Worthington, said local residents will soon notice activity at the site.
“We have added a second greenhouse to our site,” he explained. “We’re going to put poly on that second house this coming week, and after that there will be activity down there. We’ll probably open sometime in April. That all depends on the weather, of course, but there’s a lot of preliminary cleaning, putting stuff out and getting it ready.”
Rohrer buys his garden stock from his former business, VIP Floral in Slayton, and said the planting of the bedding stock is in full force.
“They’re planting tens of thousands of plants each week,” he said.
Of course, exactly when the long-term warm-up will happen is all conjecture. The Old Farmer’s Almanac’s annual weather summary predicted that April and May would be warmer than normal, with near-normal precipitation, but Heitkamp won’t commit to the possibility that March will “come in like a lion and go out like a lamb.”
“I’ve never held true to that whatsoever,” he said with a laugh. “Our spring weather is usually so volatile — we can have a blizzard, we can have severe weather. It is ever-changing this time of year.”
Heitkamp also recalled the 2013 April ice storm that wreaked havoc on the region’s trees and prompted a disaster declaration.
“That’s what I keep reminding people,” he said. “It’s very seldom we have a decent spring around here.”
But Heitkamp doesn’t anticipate any more polar vortexes — a term he’s tired of hearing — bringing sub-zero temperatures to the region. And just the angle of the sun and its increasing power is beginning to make a difference, he said.
“I honestly think people can feel that now,” he said. “Even when temps are in the 20s, people aren’t complaining when there’s sun, because the higher sun angle makes it feel better. We’re already there. We’re just waiting for that long extended period when we can say spring has sprung.”
Daily Globe Features Editor Beth Rickers can be reached at 376-7327.