Most people still have bags of ice melt and snow shovels stored away from last winter, but that could change in the next few weeks.
Though temperatures lately have been quite warm for this time of the year, AccuWeather senior meteorologist Tom Kines said Michiana should not expect another winter as mild as the last one.
“I don’t think it’s going to be snowless like a big chunk of last winter was,” Kines said. “The weather pattern is starting to change some, and I think as that happens, we’re going to see some colder air getting into northern Indiana. With that colder air, I think we’ve got to worry about some snow in the future as well.”
Snowfall in South Bend added up to 51 inches last winter, about 16 inches below average. Most of last year’s snow — about 35 inches — fell in January, Kines said.
Kines noted that November’s temperatures ended up a little below normal and so far, December has been unusually mild, about 14 degrees above normal. There is a slight chance of snow today, Dec. 10, but temperatures are expected to warm up a bit later this week.
“Typically up through early December, we’ll pick up two or three inches of snow, so we’re kind of lagging behind a little bit, but it’s nothing outlandish or record breaking this winter so far,” Kines said.
WINTER WEATHER SOUNDOFF
Hardware stores such as John Hall’s True Value in Goshen have been stocking up on winter supplies, and at the register, customers have been commenting on how unusual last winter was.
“But they have also been saying that they think it’s going to hit pretty hard this year,” Jeff Hall said.
Hall said customers have been showing up a little earlier this winter to buy shovels, ice scrapers and waterproof gloves.
“For snowblowers, usually people wait until the big snowstorm hits,” Hall said. “In the past, they’ve been fooled because stores can easily run out of snowblowers, and when it hits, there aren’t any left around. It’s better to be prepared.”
For the Elkhart County Highway Department, the longer the snow holds off, the better.
Last year’s mild winter allowed the highway department to save on salt and overtime pay, so the department could pour an extra $100,000 into its budget for road paving.
“We’re in really good shape going into the winter with salt supplies, and we’re in fairly good shape with equipment,” highway manager Jeff Taylor said, adding that the department has an aging fleet of vehicles, but he was able to buy a couple of new trucks this year.
But the highway department’s biggest concern about snow removal isn’t equipment, Taylor said.
“In the last couple of years, we have been building a list of part-time people that we could call on, and we’ve enlarged that resource a bit. However, part-time work is sporadic when it comes to snow plowing. People may or may not get any work for a week depending on the weather.”
Many farmers would welcome a little snowfall with open arms, according to Jeff Burbrink, an educator with the Purdue Cooperative Extension Service in Elkhart County.
“The water table is down so low right now,” he said “It’s very unusual.”
Though the area has gotten some rain, Burbrink said the county is still in a drought.
“I know the grass doesn’t look like it, but the grass has been in a phase where it’s getting just enough water to basically keep it green and growing,” he said. “It’s just an illusion of having enough water.”