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Midwest Adventures #9: Our First Winter 2011-12

November 9, 2011 5 comments

And so it begins . . .

Nov. 9: Woke up to about an inch of snow in the yard and on my car. Yesterday’s rain turned to snow overnight. The roads were wet but not particularly slick. The snow is expected to melt off later today. This aspect of our adventure has started a little earlier than we had hoped or expected, but maybe there’ll be another period of clear weather before winter arrives in earnest.

Nov. 14: We had great weather the past few days while we moved into our new house on Clemens Boulevard. Highs in the low 50s, lows in the low 30s, and no rain. Anybody can cope with those numbers. We’re really pleased with our new house. It’s big, comfortable and in a great neighborhood. Two different neighbors have brought over cookies. Lots of kids playing outside. The only downside is we’re quite a bit farther away from work and school than we were in the rental house.

Nov. 23: It’s the day before Thanksgiving. Overall, the weather since the Nov. 9 snowfall has been really quite good. Very little precipitation. Just a few cold days. One morning I got into my car to go to work and it was 20 degrees. That’s pretty cold. A few evenings ago, Tammy and I attended the city’s Christmas tree lighting downtown and a bitterly cold wind put a damper on the festivities. But there have been many other days, like today, when the daytime temps have been in the high 40s and even low 50s, while it barely dropped below freezing at night. There has been talk of snow next week, but as far as November is concerned, I can’t complain.

Dec. 1: It snowed today. Nothing serious. It didn’t stick, at least not in Ames. Tammy and I drove in to Des Moines this evening, and we did see some lingering snow on the patches of grass in the shopping centers and on some of the cars driving around. Must have snowed a bit more there. Significant precip (rain or snow, or both) is forecast for Saturday.

Dec. 3: It rained all day, finally turning to snow about 10 p.m. But the snow came at the tail end of the storm, so Ames got, at most, half an inch. Northern Iowa got a lot more. I hardly needed to shovel anything, but I did anyway because it was easy.

Dec. 5: Bitterly cold today. High in low 20s, but wind making it feel like mid-teens.

Dec. 6: Even colder today. It is 9:22 p.m., and the temperature is 9 degrees Fahrenheit.

Dec. 8: Snow this evening. We saw little rabbit footprints in the snow covering the back porch.

Dec. 9: Shoveled driveway and sidewalk this morning. About half an inch, so pretty easy work. Sara drove to and from school today without incident. Although it didn’t get above freezing today, the sun managed to melt a lot of the snow. Very cold this evening at 12 degrees. Supposed to get down to 3 or 4 overnight but warm up considerably in the next two days.  A high of 40 is considered to be quite warm.

Dec. 11: It warmed up, as expected, and most of the snow melted today. I leave for Las Vegas tomorrow evening, so I won’t be here for a few days. We’re supposed to get some precipitation while I’m gone, but the good news for Tammy is it likely will be rain, not snow, so no shoveling will be required.

Dec. 18: Fifty degrees, sunny and no wind today. Beautiful day. We sure have been lucky. December has been a little colder overall than our mild November, but the snow has been minimal so far. We leave this evening for a week in Las Vegas, and the forecast for Ames is mostly clear and not too cold while we’re gone. There’s a chance of rain/snow in a few days, but it doesn’t look like much, especially if it’s all rain. It’ll be just a little warmer in Las Vegas!

Dec. 25: No white Christmas in Iowa this year. It’s been unseasonably warm, and the big holiday was no exception.

Jan. 1: Very windy overnight. We were supposed to get a quick shot of snow but it never materialized in Ames. Just big wind gusts that kept on through the day. Cold today but it was the wind that made it uncomfortable. The warmer, drier fall and winter are being attributed to the La Nina weather pattern in the Pacific Ocean. The Des Moines Register reported yesterday: “Almost no snow has fallen. The ground is bare, and winter seems an abstract concept. Ice melting tools crowd the shelves of Porter Hardware in Des Moines. The store’s snow blower inventory is full, and shovels are plentiful.” And guess what: Dry conditions are forecast throughout this week, with temperatures warming back to 50 or so by Thursday. Some winter!

Jan. 5: It was warm and sunny today. Wait, that’s hardly a worthy description of this deep-winter day in Iowa. It was 63 degrees in Ames, and 65 in  Des Moines! High-temp records were set all over the state. People didn’t wear jackets in the afternoon. They golfed. Kids played outside. Longtime Iowans marveled at the highly unusual weather pattern. Some cynics figure this means that when winter finally comes, it will extend into April or May. Certainly hope not.

Jan. 16: Winter finally arrived last week. We got several quite cold days and two moderate snowfalls. However, a warm day (in the 40s) over the weekend melted all the snow. Today was pretty decent but it’s supposed to get cold again tomorrow and maybe snow. Still an unusually warm, dry winter overall.

Jan. 19: It is 7 a.m., and the temperature is minus-1. The wind chill is minus-17. This is the point where the TV weathermen warn people about the grim prospect of frostbite if their skin is exposed to the elements for more than five minutes. Significant snowfall is expected here tomorrow. If so, it would be the first time we’ve gotten more than an inch or so this season.

Bitterly cold in the early morning.

Jan. 22: It was a fairly warm day today, with a high of about 35. But it wasn’t sunny at all. So some of the snow melted but not a lot. Today’s relatively balmy conditions followed several days of bitterly cold temps. We got up early one Saturday morning and it was minus-6. With the wind chill, it felt like minus-20. I think the high that day was about 8 or 10. So it’s late in the evening right now and it’s raining. The rain is likely to convert to snow sometime in the night. Recipe for slippery conditions in the morning, I expect.

Jan. 23: Yep, we got a pretty good dose of snow overnight. Major shoveling in the morning. Quite a workout. Some neighbors used their snow blowers. The roads were a little slippery in the morning. At a four-way stop near the high school, Sara’s car was bumped from behind. No damage or injuries. It turned out it was Sara’s friend who slid into her car. Then, the snowplow nicked our garbage can and knocked it over, spilling garbage. I had to go pick it up.

Feb. 2: We have been having phenomenal weather. Record-setting warm temperatures. The high a couple of days this week was around 60. Almost no precipitation and little wind. It has been such a mild winter here and across the Midwest that it’s big news. According to USA Today, “the jet stream has cut off the cold air for much of the winter, shoving it north of the USA.” Despite the unusual warmth, an elderly couple near Des Moines went ice fishing. They drowned. We’re supposed to get some rain and snow this weekend, but already the forecasters are pulling back on their predictions about the storm’s severity.

Feb. 13: Awakened to a pretty healthy snowfall. Continued to snow during much of the day. Probably about 2 1/2 inches total.

Feb. 14: Warmed up nicely, and most of the snow melted today.

Feb. 19: Very nice today, sunny with the high in the low 40s. Can’t complain.

March 7: We got more than three inches of snow a few days ago, probably the most we’ve had in one day this winter. But then, the past couple of days, we’ve had wonderfully warm spring weather that melted the snow. It was about 70 yesterday and 65 today. It’ll be maybe 50 tomorrow but then warm up again, hitting the 60s by Monday. So this Iowa winter, which we dreaded, has been remarkably mild, and it’s almost over.

March 25: Let’s put a bow on this endless blog post. It’s been warm and nice, if a little breezy, since that snowfall almost three weeks ago. Highs in the 70s. Some rain, but no thunderstorms yet. The grass is green. The trees have buds on them. Birds everywhere. On March 20th, the Des Moines Register had a headline declaring, “One More Freeze Remains a Possibility,” with the state’s climatologist saying it would happen by the second week of April. A hard freeze is defined as 28 degrees or lower. I would bet against it. The Register article also offered some interesting statistics about this winter past. It’s been the warmest winter in a decade, and the ninth warmest winter in 139 years of Iowa climate records. Snowfall was well below normal. We set records for warm days in March.

Long story short, we survived our first Midwest winter. We’re very grateful it was a mild one. No car accidents. No painful falls. It could have been a whole different story if it had been a lot colder and snowier.

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