Column: Enjoying a rare winter without snow

Early Sunday morning I texted a map showing projected snow totals across Long Island to my colleague Bob Liepa, our paper’s sports editor.

“Has there ever been a year where it didn’t snow right as spring sports starts?” I asked.

He responded: “I can’t remember one.”

It seems as if every year, just as the annual tradition of St. Patrick’s Day parades begins and the end of winter appears tantalizingly close, a snowstorm brings a dose of reality. Winter rarely goes quietly.

You could imagine my surprise Monday morning when I awoke to find the streets still visible. Weather reports the previous night warned of as much as seven inches of snow. A mix of rain overnight helped limit the accumulations, leaving behind slushy sidewalks, but otherwise fine driving conditions. Local schools began the day on a two-hour delay and by Tuesday morning the grass began to emerge again.

Who’s ready for baseball?

I miss the days of rooting for heavy snow to fall overnight. As a kid, there was no greater sight than peeking out the window early in the morning, seeing the ground covered in white and then crawling back into bed to enjoy a snow day.

The realities of adulthood are less fun, especially in the news business where snowstorm equals story.

So now I’ve come to root against snow. And this winter has proved to be cooperative — so far.

As we approach mid-March, Mother Nature has spared us any major snowstorms. So thank you to all the people who bought snowblowers in advance of this winter season. The reverse jinx has worked beautifully. Maybe next year you’ll get to put it to use.

If it seems like it’s been several years since we had this little snow, you’d be right. In four of the past six winters, our area has seen more than 50 inches of snow, boosted in large part by at least one blizzard. In fact, 2011-12 was the last time we saw less snow locally. Remarkably, only 5 1/2 inches of snow fell then, according to data from the National Weather Service.

Over the last 10 years, the average snow total has been 48 1/2 inches. 

This year? We’re currently at just over 15, nearly half of which fell Saturday through Monday in two separate storms. The most disruptive snow of the season came in November when, much to everyone’s surprise, about 4 1/2 inches fell in the afternoon hours. It was an eventful drive home for me that night, navigating dark, snow-covered roads and wondering why I had no idea so much snow would fall so quickly. 

Who would have thought the snow total that night would equal what we would see over the next three months combined.

For most of us, snow simply represents a nuisance (back-breaking shoveling) or leisure (skiing). But on a global scale, it actually represents much more.

According to a post on NASA’s Earth Observatory website, snow plays an important role in regulating climate. The reflective white that covers so many square miles reflects sunlight back into space, which in turn helps cool the planet. Many areas also rely on snowmelt for drinking water and water for crops, according to NASA.

Global warming has altered the landscape of snow totals throughout the world. Reports have suggested that some cities that have hosted the Winter Olympics in the past may soon be too warm to ever host again. Artificial snowmaking can only do so much for all the events that require the white stuff.

The skiing industry as a whole is threatened. A New York Times report last month on the endangered industry said “only about half of the 103 ski resorts in the Northeast will be able to maintain an economically viable ski season by midcentury.” The opinion story written by the author of “Deep: The Story of Skiing and the Future of Snow” questioned why those in the skiing industry aren’t pushing harder for climate change initiatives.

“So now the question is whether the ski and winter sport industry will back up its talk with action,” the author, Porter Fox, wrote.

I’ve never gone skiing or snowboarding before, as fun as it looks. I should find some time soon to give it a try before the closest location is somewhere in Canada. 

Photo caption: About 3 inches of snow fell last Saturday morning across the North Fork. Spring, though, is around the corner and soon kids will be back on the courts in South Jamesport. (Joe Werkmeister photo)

The author is the editor of the Riverhead News-Review and The Suffolk Times. He can be reached at 631-354-8049 or [email protected]

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