, Salem, MA

March 20, 2014

Our view: Goodbye winter, hello spring

The Salem News

---- — Potholes. Over-extended highway budgets. Final school days pushed into late June.

Those are among the high costs of an extended winter that has pushed spending into the red and the region’s population into a deep state of melancholy.

Winter grabbed us early and appears increasingly unwilling to let us go.

The latest to fall victim to the season of our discontent are sugar makers. They watch the mercury sink and stay there, their sap lines frozen, their buckets empty of the sweet offerings expected from maple trees.

It takes a lot of sap, some 40 gallons, to boil down to a single gallon of syrup, and the window of opportunity is closing. A good sugaring season requires daytime temperatures above freezing and nighttime lows below that. Warm up too fast and the maples start to bud, lending an unpleasant taste and a bad year for maple producers.

There have been shortages of ice melt to keep sidewalks and stairways skid-free. Those who stay warm with pellet stoves have turned to social media to find a supply to keep the home fires burning.

A local fuel dealer’s troubles have left customers shivering, either from empty fuel tanks or dreaded anticipation of such. Even firewood dealers long ago ran out of seasoned wood, the most efficient fuel source for those who keep the night fires burning.

Winter has taken its toll in other ways, too.

Even schoolchildren have lost that tingle of excitement when school closings scroll across the bottom of the TV screen. The notion of spending most of June in a stuffy classroom rather than at a local beach makes another unexpected day off less appealing.

Some local psychiatrists and social service workers report symptoms of depression have worsened, melancholia has many stuck to the couch, hands alternating between the remote and yet another bag of chips.

Budgets already stretched thin have passed the breaking point. Everything is more expensive — fuel, food, health care for winter maladies, even entertainment — when outdoor activity is limited by ice and extreme cold.

When The Weather Channel affixes a name to yet another incoming storm, we sink deeper, not because of the ridiculous practice, but rather because there is yet another storm to name.

Utilities send out notices about their preparedness for the next attack as regularly as they do pink slips to those struggling with winter rates.

As frustrating as the next unsettling forecast is the fact there’s no one to blame. Global warming? We could use some. Meteorologists? Well, they get some predictions wrong, but they don’t actually create the weather. The next-door neighbor who has blown snow your way for the past four months? He’s got to put it somewhere.

Climatologists and old New Englanders point to patterns, cycles, extremes much worse than this winter. They scoff at the endless questions about breaking records. It’s winter; it’s New England.

Well, spring officially arrives today. Enjoy the 50 degree temperatures while you can. It’s expected to be back in the 30s by Sunday. We have visions of a hat- and mitten-wearing crowd at the Red Sox Fenway Park opener in a few weeks.

It’s time to turn the tables on the Mother Nature personified in the Chiffon margarine commercial years ago.

It’s not nice to fool us, Mother Nature.