Kansas City’s winter without respite is officially over, the calendar says. Yet this, the first day of spring, is more wintry than our last day of winter.
After all that old man has delivered since December, he plans a taunting end-zone dance, as more snow is expected today.
Remember winter this way: On Thursday and Friday, the mercury crept beyond 60 degrees, a level of warmth we had enjoyed on just two other occasions since Nov. 28. That’s 110 days ago, three weeks before anyone around here saw “Avatar.”
Fully half of those days were cloudy. And for 21 straight, beginning Christmas Eve, 4 to 9 inches of snow sat on the ground at Kansas City International Airport.
Winter 2010 declared its invasion complete Feb. 12, when Hawaii was the only U.S. state not reporting white stuff somewhere.
Still, Tom Brungardt, who runs Critter Control out of Shawnee, will recall the season fondly. Cold but well behaved, it was. A winter that followed rules of old.
“It wasn’t nearly as bad as you think,” he said.
See, in pest-fighting and other endeavors, mild winters cause trouble. Squirrels stumble out of hibernation during mid-season warm spells and seek refuge in the nearest attic. Insects may breed only to meet an early, ecologically upsetting demise.
Recent “winters” saw lush green shoots of Kansas wheat curl up and die come Easter. Magnolias blossoming in February turned rust-colored within days, when the real season bit back.
In winters that don’t know how to behave, ice storms visit and snap power lines. Rivers and creeks can slow to trickles, dehydrating industrial plants that rely on year-round flow.
“The general public is apt to think back and say this was a horrible winter and that, with the combination of snow and cold, it seemed to go on forever,” said Mark O’Malley of the National Weather Service station in Pleasant Hill. “But we didn’t set one record low. We did tie a record (a low of 2 on Feb. 24).”
For sure, that 21-day streak of snow cover was rare for Kansas City — happening only four other times in a century-plus of record keeping. But, oh, therecord rivals the oomph of Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak: 47 consecutive days of snow cover, without a moment below 3 inches, in 1979.
“To me, this is what winters used to be like,” said Mark Titzman, manager of Family Tree Nursery in Overland Park. “Everything is much slower leafing out…which is better in the long run. But there’s no reason you can’t plant your root crops — your potatoes and onions, your beets, turnips — in this colder weather,” or as soon as the mud lets you.
In Washington, debates in the media about health insurance reform gave way to one-upmanship in storm-dubbing — was it Snowmageddon or Snoverkill? Blizzards produced 5-foot drifts that shut down the hub of federal business for a week in early February; few outside the beltway noticed.
Shopping malls suffered across the wintry countryside, but online sales shot way up.
Americans spent more on groceries as the storms approached and then, in the face of dire economic forecasts, they spent more at restaurants as soon as they could leave their driveways.
We drank more booze this winter than last. Texans proved they could construct elaborate snow sculptures when given the chance.
In Florida, chilled iguanas fell out of trees. And scientists everywhere harrumphed when a Gallup poll earlier this month found 48 percent of Americans saying that the threats of global warming were “generally exaggerated,” up from 30 percent who said so in 2006.
All of the snowfall has lifted the Missouri River in the Kansas City region to near flood stage — which is OK this time of year, said Jud Kneuvean, chief of emergency management for the local district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“We’re not getting too excited,” he said, noting that much of our snow was of a drier, “talcum-powder variety.”
Not true in the upper Mississippi River basin, where snows with high moisture content have culminated in flood warnings in Minnesota and the Dakotas.
Do expect woodchucks, rabbits, bats, squirrels, yellow jackets and all manner of bugs to be more plentiful than in past springs, as their winter was mostly uninterrupted, their homes nicely protected by snow cover.
The spring equinox occurs today at 12:32 p.m.
The lengthy January thaws that Kansas Citians like, but missed this year, are also known to arouse snoozing critters when food supplies are few, leaving small carcasses in the weather’s wake, said pest-controller Brungardt.
The temperature was 41, the skies cloudy, when Kansas City’s Strickland family — Melody, great-grandpa Wilbur, who is 94, and four children ages 2 to 8 — ceremoniously observed winter’s end. Melody Strickland parked the minivan, and her clan tucked their coats into the lawn chairs they carried to the St. Patrick’s Day parade.
“It’s good to get out again,” she said. “Oh, it was a long winter. But in some ways…it was beautiful.”
Credits: By Rick Montgomery - The Kansas City Star