Stretching out the season

In case you didn't notice, this past week was winter weather awareness week. With unusually high temperatures, it may have been a little difficult to think about packing a snow shovel and winter survival kit in the trunk.

In case you didn't notice, this past week was winter weather awareness week. With unusually high temperatures, it may have been a little difficult to think about packing a snow shovel and winter survival kit in the trunk.

Instead, people were outside raking, painting, camping, fishing and planting new trees during day after day of higher than normal temperatures.

"Just weird" is how forecaster Tood Krause, with the National Weather Service in Chanhassen, described the long stretch of warm weather. "It's definitely rare."

During the month of October, the average daily temperature in Willmar was 3.3 degrees above normal, according to Pete Boulay, assistant state climatologist with the Department of Natural Resources Division of Water. The high temperature in October in Willmar was 85 degrees.

In the first week of November, the average daily temperature in Willmar was 6.2 degrees above normal. It's typical to have highs in the 40s and lows around 25 degrees in November, but "not the balmy 50s and 60s we have had," said Boulay. "If we get back to normal, it'll be a real shock to reality."


The warm weather extension has been great for gardeners and landscapers.

"We're still getting calls from people who want landscaping done," said Ela Roth, horticulture advisor at Green Lake Nursery in Spicer. Usually, they have the plants and trees bedded down under mulch for the winter by Nov. 1. It's been too warm yet for mulching, said Roth.

The warm fall has allowed landscaping crews to finish projects this fall that normally would've been delayed until next spring. In the 24 years that Roth has worked at the nursery, this is the latest that crews have been working and the latest that customers have bought trees for fall planting. She sold eight trees on Tuesday. It's still warm enough to fertilize lawns, said Roth.

"We've just had a nice long season to enjoy everything, that's for sure," said Sue Morris, a Kandiyohi County Master Gardener. She said day lillies have been re-blooming and petunias and mums are still doing well. "I've heard of things that are blooming again that shouldn't be at this time of year."

The long, warm fall has given farmers ample time to harvest crops and get fall fertilizing and tilling completed. "The fall harvest has been as close to being ideal as you can get," said Byron Hogberg, director of the Renville County Farm Service Agency.

Farmers didn't have to struggle with muddy fields and race against the clock to get crops harvested before snow flies, said Hogberg, which takes off the pressure and greatly improves attitudes.

With grain storage at a premium and fuel that's used for grain dryers at record-breaking prices, the warm, dry fall has allowed farmers to delay harvesting, avoid expensive grain drying and find alternative storage facilities, said Hogberg.

On top of the good weather, yields in area counties have been excellent this year. "Overall, it was a tremendous year for crops," said Hogberg.


The nice weather has also been good for construction crews. Mark Nelson, from Nelson Construction in Willmar, said their busy season goes from March through September. This year, they had requests for quotes in November. The warm temperatures also made it easy on the workers. "Nobody likes to work in 10-below weather," said Nelson.

People have been camping and hiking at Sibley State Park, near New London, this month. Several campsites were occupied last weekend and there may be a few "hardy souls" there this weekend if the weather holds out. "I think this is outside of the norm for camping," said Gary Bullemer, assistant director at Sibley.

More people than usual have been hiking the state park trails this month. "I see a lot of Novembers come and go without anyone hiking," said Bullemer.

The advantage of hiking in November is that the absence of leaves on trees means "you can see further into the woods," said Buller, and perhaps get a glimpse of deer and other animals on the move.

"There is a certain beauty in the month of November," he said.

Another thing that's certain, is that the warm weather won't last. Cool weather that will "bring us back to reality" will move into the area sometime this weekend or early this week, said Krause. "Nothing terrible," he said, just "normal weather for November."

But will it stay cold?

"Who knows," said Krause.

Carolyn Lange is a features writer at the West Central Tribune. She can be reached at or 320-894-9750
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