Lack of snow puts pinch on recreation, commerce

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 13, 2002

Around Albert Lea you can clearly see grassy fields and yards. In fact, some of that grass is still a little green.

After a mild November, December has started off like late March and it seems as if spring may just be around the corner.

While these sunny days and warm temperatures may be a treat for some, that’s not the case for people who plow snow, sell removal equipment or others who make money off the white stuff.

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For instance, the warm weather has slowed down all snow-related sales for Northstar Powersports, which has an large inventory of motorcycles, ATVs and snowmobiles.

December is usually a month when the store counts on selling many snowmobiles.

&uot;Obviously, with a lack of snow, snowmobile sales are a lot slower than usual for this time,&uot; Rachel Christensen, co-owner of Northstar. &uot;It especially affects our service department, which usually gives a lot of tune-ups and repairs at this time.&uot;

Oil, belts, spark plugs and any other items that might be used to fix up the motor sleds sit have sat on the shelves so far this winter.

One positive for them has been that motorcycle sales have been much higher than usual, which Christensen attributes to the warm weather.

For some other businesses there are few upsides to the warm weather.

At Doug’s Auto Body, business moves along like it would during the summer. But Doug Hallum, the owner, said the shop gets the most business in the snowy, icy winter months.

&uot;We’re busy, but not as busy as we usually are,&uot; Hallum said. &uot;Usually by the middle of November we get one snowfall in here that makes for some fender benders.&uot;

Winter brings Doug’s business to its peak. &uot;For some reason when the first snow comes everyone forgets how to drive,&uot; Hallum said.

Adam Frederick, chief meteorologist for KIMT Channel 3 in Mason City, Iowa, says sooner or later we can expect snow and cold weather.

&uot;In the area where we live people know it is going to snow sometime,&uot; Frederick said. &uot;November of 2000 was a very dry month. Then, starting on the 11th of December we started off with that first five inches of snowfall. After that we were bombarded with it throughout that winter.&uot;

Frederick says that while there isn’t snow on the ground the temperature is around average for this time of year at about 23-1/3 degrees.

But recent warm daytime temperatures may be an effect of not having snow on the ground. Frederick said snow cover tends to drive the temperature down because it reflects 60-80 percent of the sunlight.

While climatologists have predicted a warmer winter than most, Frederick said the long-term predictions aren’t always correct.

&uot;Climatology is what is supposed to happen; weather is what happens,&uot; he said.

He believes that with a little Midwestern patience, snow will come around soon.

Christensen sure hopes so.

&uot;In an economy based on four seasons you come to expect the weather to be follow the normal trends,&uot; Christensen said. &uot;Warm winters can hurt a lot of different businesses.&uot;

&uot;I’m waiting for the snow to fall. This nice weather disgusts me,&uot; she said, laughing.