Ray Duckler: What a difference a year makes
JT Martin (left) and Brennan Malone soak in the warm weather as Tom White's eighth-grade Science class makes their way to launching hot air balloons at Belmont Middle School on Wednesday, March 21, 2012. The balloon proved so successful, it drifted landed high in a tree across Route 106.
(Alexander Cohn/ Monitor Staff)
Lindsay Irwin, 14, and her fraternal twin sister, Natalie. "I like that it's thin and it's really easy to go fast on," Lindsay said about her sled. "I like that it's fast," Natalie added. The two were sledding at White Park with friends during a snow day from school on Tuesday March 19, 2013.
(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
Once upon a time, exactly one year ago, Sean Wheeler smacked grounders on a baseball field, Kaitlyn Witts opened windows at a restaurant with outside tables and Mike Haddad checked his radar in the Channel 9 studio, shaking his head in disbelief.
Fast forward 365 days, and Bruce McCloy said let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.
And it did.
Spring, the strangest of the four seasons around here, officially began at 7:02 this morning, and we all know what that means.
Welcome to March, when birds, bees and flowers never know what to expect.
What, exactly, does the start of spring mean around here?
Sometimes, it’s a transition between winter and summer, as it should be. Not too warm, not too cold.
Last year, though, from March 18 through 22, it meant 80-plus degree temperatures, five record-setting days of warmth that had baseball fans jumping for joy.
You’ve probably noticed that it snowed yesterday, as much as a foot in some spots.
And that has made McCloy, the marketing director at Mount Sunapee Ski Resort, happy as a bunny on Easter.
“I would venture to say that starting (today), once this storm moves out of here, we’re going to be open until April 7,” said the happy bunny. “It’s probably going to be one of the best 2½-week periods of spring skiing in a long time in New England. Not only is the weather going to be ideal, but we’ve got so much snow already. I’ve been in the ski business for 40 years, and I’m telling you, the next couple of weeks could be dynamite.”
Last year was different. Last year, global warming supporters pointed fingers and said, “See, we told you.”
Mount Sunapee closed March 22, the earliest in its history, according to McCloy. The little snow that fell turned to mush and slush, when
temperatures ran, on consecutive days, from 81 degrees, to 81, to 80, to 83, to 84. Records were also set March 12 (69 degrees) and 13 (71).
Yesterday, though, McCloy had a blast, inviting the 14-year-old boy he mentors, the kid who had the day off from school, for a day on the slopes.
“I called him (Monday) night and said, ‘Mike, you’re not having school tomorrow, let’s go skiing in the powder,’ ” McCloy said. “He and I were out there from 9:30 in the morning until noon. There were tons of kids here. It was packed.
Wheeler, the longtime baseball coach at Merrimack Valley, had a snow day, too, which meant his team also had one.
Just one day after the first tryout.
“Frustrating,” was how Wheeler summed it up. “We were in the gym at the high school, and once you get going, you want to keep going, so now with a snow day we can’t practice today. We have to take the whole day off. We pretty much planned out to have the first two weeks in the gym this year. We’re hoping by the third week to be outside, whatever date that is.”
Wheeler, 41, played ball for the late great Warren Doane at Concord High in the 1980s. He remembers fielding grounders in the Memorial Field parking lot, the only place clear of snow. He played Legion ball here, Sunset League ball, you name it.
He knows what a nightmare the first day of spring can be.
So last year was a dream.
“We spent one hour in the gym throwing and taking attendance, paperwork stuff,” Wheeler said. “And then we were basically outside for the rest of the year.
“I can remember we had to force kids to keep their long sleeves on just to keep their arms warm,” Wheeler continued. “We did not have to move a scheduled game all season. Not one. That’s unheard of. We played our schedule on time.”
And this season?
“Our first game is supposed to be April 8 at Kennett in Conway. We call it Canada. It’s an hour past Plymouth. We’re going to Canada that day. That game might be in jeopardy.”
Wheeler then laughed over the magnitude of his understatement. He knows there’s a good chance his team won’t open the season on time, even though the opener is still nearly three weeks away.
“I’m looking out my window,” Wheeler said, “and it looks like we got at least 6 inches of snow so far.”
Speaking of windows, the affable Kaitlyn Witts, who’s been working for 14 years at Arnie’s Place, known for ice cream and outside eating, said she took the storm windows out last year, then wiped down the screens.
“Heck, we probably even had to clear some spider webs,” Witts said. “They had already probably come out and made their webs. It was hot that week, in the 80s. It was crazy.”
Nowadays, Witts spreads salt outside the front door, just in case.
“I’m staring at a giant pile of snow,” Witts said, “which is usually here until May, anyway.”
Is that possible?
Six weeks away?
To find out, we asked Mike Haddad, the chief meteorologist at WMUR. He placed last year’s summer-like spring in perspective, saying the five straight days of record warmth topped the numbers that had been set between 1903 and 1966.
“To go five days and be that far above the record is unheard of,” said Haddad, who’s been working at Channel 9 for 20 years. “I mean, we were shattering records, 14 above one day, nine above on another, 10 above the record on that last day. It was kind of shocking.”
It also made WMUR news anchor Tom Griffith happy. He hates the cold weather.
“I keep telling him, until we’re through April, I don’t rule anything out,” Haddad said. “The window of opportunity isn’t closed yet.”
But those at Arnie’s sure are.