In New England, no flakes are falling, but records are

Boston nears mark for latest first snow

ski resorts suffer

January 06, 2000|By Ann LoLordo | Ann LoLordo,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

It's a drought of a different sort.

Another day without snow in Boston and the city will post its 297th day without measurable flakes, breaking a record set in 1892 for the latest first snow of the season.

In New England, where snow is part of the psychic and seasonal landscape, some vacationers are hiking rather than skiing. Builders are taking advantage of an unseasonably long work season. And others are soaking up the sunshine.

Across New England, the news is not record snowfalls, but unseasonably warm weather.

"There's nothing to shovel," said an appreciative Dave Platt, of Rockland, Maine. "I do a lot of long-distance commuting. A lack of snow for me is fine. I drive up and down Route 1. I'm glad I'm not in the ski resort business."

The green winter in New England has some folks paying for what nature hasn't delivered.

With nary a snowflake in sight and 200 teen-agers arriving this weekend for a New Hampshire camp reunion, camp director Bob Strodel isn't in a panic. He is paying someone to cover a hillside at the campsite with snow.

"They expect to see snow, and we're going to have it for them," Strodel said of the girls and boys who spend their summers at Camp Brookwoods and Deer Run on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. "We have some very nice inner tubes, and they don't work so well on the grass."

At the West Mountain Inn in Arlington, Vt., innkeeper Amy Emmons said the snowless days haven't dampened the spirits -- or romantic tendencies -- of her guests. The fireplaces are still roaring.

"Actually, the weather has been beautiful," said Emmons. "We have a lot of guests who have been hiking and doing outdoor stuff that they would not have done otherwise. With or without snow, it's a beautiful place to be.

"We're trying to stay positive."

At Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont, snowbirds can ski in postcard-perfect powder, said Mike Colbourn, a Baltimore native who works at the resort.

"We're going to have 80 percent of our lifts open this weekend. In a two-day period last week, we had 11 inches of snow," he said. "As I look out my window, it's totally white. The mountain is totally white."

This winter in New England is not unlike last year's. Gerry Bell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center, wasn't surprised by this year's lack of snow.

"We expected this to be a mild winter. The long-range outlook issued several months ago said mild across the Eastern U.S., the mid-Atlantic and the South," he said.

Blame it on the North Atlantic oscillation, a condition in the Atlantic jet stream that produces relatively mild conditions and a lack of snow, and La Nina, colder than usual ocean waters across the eastern half of the tropical Pacific Ocean, Bell said.

"La Nina affects tropical rainfall, and that affects weather patterns. In combination we are ending up with a relatively mild winter and with no snow," he said.

If New Englanders want snow, they don't have to go too far.

Erie, Pa., has received slightly more than 30 inches of snow this season. Gaylord, Mich., has recorded about 54 inches.

"If you want to go play in deep snow Alta, Utah, today reported 63 inches of snow on the ground. Deadwood, Idaho had 60 inches, and even Crater Lake in Oregon had 51 inches on the ground," meteorologist Rich Tinker said.

Only 30 inches in Erie, Pa.?

"Oh my gosh. That's nothing," said Helen J. Trageser, 73, of Erie.

The city on the south shore of Lake Erie is frequently hit by heavy lake-effect snows. It received 19 inches on Dec. 23, and the snow continued through the Christmas weekend.

"I hate it," Trageser said.

The real weather news in Erie has been the relatively balmy temperatures that have melted the Christmas snow.

"I'm happy it's gone away. It's been lovely here," Trageser said. "When it gets to 60 in January in Erie, that's something. Of course, the ice fishermen don't like it. They can't go out on the bay. The ice is all cracking."

The warm spell ended abruptly Tuesday when a cold front swept through, dropping the temperature from 60 in the morning to 35 by early afternoon. It also brought an inch of snow.

Sun staff writer Frank Roylance contributed to this article.

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