Spring arrives Wednesday (but who can tell?)
By Jenette STurges And Kalyn Belsha email@example.com March 18, 2013 5:58PM
A runner jogs around Phillips Park as a snow and rain mix falls on Aurora on Monday, March 18, 2013. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media
Wait till last year
Date high high
March 15 81 39*
March 16 82 39*
March 17 82 37*
March 18 81 33*
March 19 78 31*
March 20 85 24*
March 21 87 31*
March 22 83 37*
Source: National Weather
Updated: April 20, 2013 6:18AM
Snowflakes and sleet are still falling from the sky, and it’s giving the Fox Valley a case of spring fever.
“Our phone is ringing off the hook and folks are ready to go,” said Heather Prince, assistant marketing manager and horticulturalist at The Growing Place in Aurora and Naperville. “People are so ready to see some color.”
After last year’s record-setting March heat wave, Spring 2012, which officially starts Wednesday, feels like it may never arrive — this month’s nasty weather is keeping everyone from gardeners to golfers indoors.
Every day from March 14 through 22 in 2012 set a record high in Chicagoland, according to the National Weather Service. Highs one year ago this week ranged from 78 to a toasty 87 degrees.
This year, the weather service is predicting a high of just 24 degrees with blustery winds for Wednesday.
For the first half of March across Illinois, temperatures are 5.4 degrees below normal, according to Illinois State Climatologist Jim Angel. Last year, temperatures were 7.3 degrees above average.
“Last year was the fluke,” Price said.
The Growing Place’s nursery and garden center typically opens April 1, but this year will open on Saturday, a week earlier than normal.
“It’s a little colder, but we’re raring to go,” Price said.
She said employees are simply bundling up in warmer coats as they prepare for opening day, moving shrubs and trees, setting up displays of cold-hardy pansies and lettuce, and generally sprucing up.
As for whether or not anyone actually will brave the chilly temperatures for Saturday’s grand opening, which features workshops and tree giveaways, Prince said the cabin fever most gardeners are experiencing may work in their favor.
“Spring’s right around the corner. The buds are getting fatter, the snowdrops are blooming,” she said. “It looks like it might be 40 and partly sunny. We’re pretty excited.”
Icy cold links
At Phillips Park, one of Aurora’s two public golf courses, “Mother Nature plays with the start of the season,” said Jeff Schmidt, Aurora’s PGA golf operations manager.
Though Phillips Park golfers can swing their clubs year-round, more turn out when the weather is favorable, Schmidt said. And when unseasonably warm temperatures hit last spring, the course saw a huge boost in traffic.
“Last March we played almost 2,300 rounds of golf,” Schmidt said, adding that in 2011 the number was only a few hundred. “We were all jumping for joy.
“Not this year, it’s not starting off the way I’d like it.”
Schmidt says if the weather cooperates the course should be open daily — right now it’s open five days a week — in the next two weeks, and seasonal staff will start as the play picks up.
Farmers, too, are keeping an eye on the weather, though they don’t typically take to the fields until around the second week of April, according to Joe White, president of the Kane County Farm Bureau.
“Cold and wet is the worst kind of conditions you can have in the spring to the crops germinated,” White said.
There is some good news, though, about the gray skies and lingering snowflakes, White said.
“We’re not complaining about the moisture,” he said, adding that the wet weather has all but erased last year’s drought conditions.
As Kane County’s farmers wait for the weather to heat up, they are gearing up for Ag Days, which runs Tuesday through Thursday at Mooseheart. The event introduces thousands of fourth grade students from across Kane County to agriculture, and this year will include more than two dozen presentations on everything from soybeans and hogs to beekeeping and GPS technology.
White expects that farmers, and everyone else, will remain cooped up for another couple weeks.
“We really don’t get excited about any field work until sometime in April,” White said.