Barry Saunders

Saunders: Winter’s chill brings no thrill

The words reverberate through the mind as appealingly as the sound of a rusty chainsaw trying to slice up that ice-laden fallen tree blocking your driveway or the crunch of metal as your new car hits a patch of black ice and slams ever-so-ungently into a tree.

“A warm December,” WTVD meteorologist Chris Hohmann told me last month, “does not a warm winter make.”

The Accuweather dude was, unfortunately, accurate.

Hohmann, as was just about every other weatherman or weatherwoman, was answering for the 992nd time the question “Why is it so warm?”

Remember last month when many of us were – okay, maybe just I was – daring to dream that winter had forgotten about us here? That it would allow us to leave those bulky overcoats mothballed and put off for yet another year the purchase of a snow shovel?

As Merle Haggard sang “If we can make it through December,” perhaps we could make it through the rest of winter unfrozen, too.

Of course, there was no chance of that, but it’s still hard to actually spend money on a snow shovel and prepare mentally for snow and winter brutality when it’s 70 degrees two days before Christmas.

December 2015 was, in many parts of the country, the warmest on record.

“The average temperature in December was 56 degrees. That’s 12 degrees over” what we normally get, Hohmann told me Saturday night when I called pleading for a ray of sunshine and warmth in the forecast that had the Triangle snowbound. “The average temperature in January has been 38 degrees. That’s 2 degrees below” what it normally is.

Let’s see, now. The average temperature in December should’ve been 44 but was 56. The average in January should’ve been 40 but was 38. That, Hohmann said, “is a difference of 18 degrees” between what the actual temperature for that period was and what it should’ve been.

“That’s a huge difference,” he said.

The current cold temperatures come too late to help Macy’s, the retailer that is closing 40 stores nationwide and firing thousands of employees. The reason: the store’s executives say November and December were so warm that nobody bought overcoats, boots, gloves and toboggans.

Just as he did when asked last month if the warm December meant we’d have a warm January, February and March, Hohmann broke my heart when asked if the colder-than-normal January meant the rest of the winter would be balmy.

Nope. One had nothing to do with the other, he informed me. As evidence, he reminded me of last winter, when December’s temperatures were mild but February’s – which were 12 degrees below average – dropped the hammer on us.

Perhaps sensing my heart breaking, Hohmann offered some hope. “There’s a good sign that after this week,” he said, “temperatures could run well above average... We could be flirting with a stretch of days in the 60s by next week.”

Okay, that’s something on which we can hang our hats – and, one hopes, those big overcoats – until next winter.

Barry Saunders: 919-836-2811, bsaunders@newsobserver.com, @BarrySaunders9

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