Traverse City Record-Eagle

March 19, 2013

Wild Weather: High temps like last year's nowhere to be seen

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — What a difference a year makes.

Last March's 80-plus-degree temperatures broke records and set the stage for a disastrous cherry crop, record-low lake levels and a difficult overall growing season for many farmers.

This March, it's a different story: the National Weather Service issued a winter weather advisory for the Grand Traverse region through Thursday, and called for two to three inches of snow daily and colder-than-normal temperatures.

That's good news for farmers and bad news for sufferers of the malady commonly known as spring fever.

“I hear people getting crabby about the cold and that it’s still winter, but if you talk to the growers, they are thrilled,” said Nikki Rothwell, a horticulturalist coordinator at the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Center in Leelanau County.

Rothwell said this week's continued cold weather and snow means a more mature snow pack and moisture for farmlands. It also means the cherry blossoms won't bloom in mid-March like last year, leading to what was arguably the region's all-time worst cherry-growing season.

"The ag community and growers of fruit are really optimistic because we are having continued snow and it's still cold," Rothwell said.

Scott Rozanski, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said this week will be "just like the middle of February," with high temperatures that struggle to challenge the freezing mark and steady, daily lake effect snow.

"It's going to look like the middle of winter out there," Rozanski said.

Winter-dependent businesses aren't complaining. The ski slopes at Crystal Mountain Resort & Spa are all open this week and in excellent condition. Ski-friendly conditions are in sharp contrast to the record-setting 82-degree temperature set on March 18, 2012 -- nearly 50 degrees warmer than this Monday's projected high of 35 degrees.

"It's never too late for some snow," said resort spokesman Tom Kramer.

Golfers at Elmbrook Golf Course on Townline Road doled out some of the earliest mulligans in season history last March. This year, the waiting game to hit the links drags on like memories of a missed four-footer.

"Last year, we were open and running on St. Patrick’s Day," said Dennis Sternburgh, clubhouse manager. "This year looks more normal. It's looking like your average season opener...usually around April 12."

Traverse City residents Jim and Marilyn Sisk strolled the downtown Traverse City Monday beneath sunny skies, knowing full well the forecast for the week called for clouds, snow and cold to arrive in a matter of hours.

"(Snow) is a four-letter word to me," Marilyn Sisk said, adding "our snow plow guy is happy."