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Warm winter has advantages, disadvantages

March 24, 2012
By Kenneth Cobb , The Inter-Mountain

I came to Elkins from the Greater Charleston area in February, 1972. On my first full day here, I don't think the temperature was above 25 degrees. There was also 8-10 inches of snow on the ground. Almost all the streets in Elkins were covered with ice and snow.

As spring came, the cold temperatures continued to prevail. Several of the local people started telling me - for all practical purposes - Elkins only has two months of summer, mid-June to mid-August. That year, I would have to agree with them.

It was in 1979 when I attended a high school reunion back home. Several of my high school friends were quick to ask me, "what do you like about Elkins, cold weather"? Right now, I would just like to know where the winter went.

Most everyone agrees with me that the winter of 2011-2012 will be one of the warmest, if not the warmest, on record. When I was walking on Davis Avenue on Wednesday, I saw several large flying insects that looked like bumble bees. That same afternoon, I had to spray two wasps in my living room. The dogwoods and forsythia are now in full bloom.

Mild winters are good for somethings and not so good for others. For example, trout are cold-blooded creatures. This past Thursday, I was talking to one of the fish biologists at the Elkins Operations Center, whom I have known for many years. I asked him if the unseasonably warm temperatures could change the trout stockings schedule. At first, he did not know how to answer this, but he did say that the warm temperatures has made them "ill at ease." At the present time, there are no plans to alter or discontinue the stocking schedule. I just hope the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources can continue with the stocking program come May.

The warm temperatures have raised some concern for farmers this time of year. Some farmers are fearful of their plants blooming too early. Others are saying that it allowed them to get a lot of outdoor work done and really prepare the soil and prepare the plants for an early growing season. Early is really not the word for it. That is what some of the residents of the southern part of the state are saying.

The strawberry picking season usually starts in mid-to-late April. Some strawberry farmers are now picking strawberries a month early, which means early revenue. I have noticed several stores have been selling seeds, garden supplies and starter kits for more than a month.

I just hope we do not have a killing frost like we did in May of 1966. That year most of the nut and soft fruit trees were wiped out, not only in West Virginia but throughout the eastern portion of the nation. About the only place where there were any nuts was on the banks of the large rivers in this state (Great Kanawha, Ohio, and Potomac).

When I went squirrel hunting that year in Roane County, I only saw and got one bushytail. I got it coming back to my car for lunch when I was walking through an open meadow next to a cornfield. Several of the farmers in that area were nailing old field corn to trees in an effort to feed the critters. In many parts of the state, the squirrels were coming into the cities begging for something to eat.

Just what is going to be the outcome this very mild winter can be anyone's assumption. This is just simply a situation were everyone is going to have to take things as they come and make the best of it.



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