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DayCreek Journal

February 25, 2008

A Real Winter

A moonlit evening under the stars at Day Creek

It's official. Most of the Midwest is having a real winter this year. Parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois have exceeding annual snowfall totals and we haven't even gotten to the month of March yet.

Here are a few snowfall statistics to ponder for various cities from Minnesota to Illinois. Check out Madison, WI with a whopping 86.7 inches of snow so far and still counting. Interestingly, most of Minnesota is below normal, except for the far southeast corner where we are located.

 City Snowfall so far...   Normal Annual Snowfall  
Green Bay, WI
73.9" 46.1"
La Crosse, WI
58.5 " 42.3"
Madison, WI
86.7" 42.3"
Milwaukee, WI
76.8 " 46.5"
Rockford, IL
60.7" 35.3"
Chicago, IL
45.7" 38.2"
Rochester, MN
33" 48.8"
Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN
24.2" 49.5"
Duluth, MN
50" 78"

This is great news for snow enthusiasts, but for travelers (like myself) it has been a rather painful winter season. Almost every week I am making changes in my travel plans to avoid driving in snowy conditions.

Take today for example. My plans were to drive from the Chicago area to Minnesota, but we are experiencing another 6+ inch snowstorm. Parts of the Chicago area will be close to 60 inches of snow by tomorrow.

Besides the snow, the winter has been extremely cloudy and almost no back-to-back sunny days. The solar heating system has been in operation for eight years now (can you believe it?) and by far this has been the most ineffective year for solar heating.

There was a brief glimmer of hope from Thursday through Sunday however when sand bed temperatures rose above 72 degrees for the first time in months. Unfortunately this was a one time even and during the heart of the winter season (Dec - Feb) the solar heating system did very little to warm the house.

Now as we look forward to spring, eyes turn to the heaps of snow piled along the driveway. Thankfully, my neighbor Bill last week pushed tons of snow off the embankments and down the hill with his Bobcat-on-steroids. This will allow water to drain across the driveway instead down it and hopefully will keep the erosion to a minimum.

Just in case , I had the truck driver dump an extra load of gravel at the TOP of the driveway in October of 2007. I highlight the word TOP to show that I have learned from last year's 500 year flood and I no longer keep extra gravel at the BOTTOM of the driveway.

This winter has definitely been challenging, but there's not much you can do about it except marvel at Mother Nature and how little we still know about our climate. Now the question is, what will spring bring? If the La Niña pattern persists (as climatologists predict) into early summer, there is a possibility that the Midwest will have above normal precipitation and a greater likelihood for severe weather including tornadoes. It could be interesting.

Other than the weather, there's not a whole lot of news to report. I've been traveling along the Mississippi River photographing bald eagles and practicing my hoots for this week's International Festival of Owls. I won the dubious honor of dressing up in an owl costume by winning the name-the-owl-mascot contest. My entry "Hooston" was picked as the winner. Why Hooston you ask? The name seemed appropriate since the festival is held in Houston, Minnesota. So if you happen to be at the festival and see a 5-foot, 7-inch owl running around, it might just be me.


A total lunar eclipse occurred on Wednesday, February 20th. For more photographs and information on the event, please see the post on