News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Mark Bennett Opinion

February 22, 2014

MARK BENNETT: Blessings of a long, cold, snowy winter

TERRE HAUTE — As spring, summer arrive, Hoosiers will appreciate icy months (well, maybe a little).

Queue up Richie Havens’ husky baritone.

“Little darlin’, I feel that ice is slowly melting; little darlin’, it seems like years since it’s been clear; here comes the sun.”

Never more true? Maybe that conclusion exaggerates this winter’s severity. It’s close, though. “It’s the coldest and snowiest winter [in central Indiana] in 32 years,” Al Shipe, hydrologist at the National Weather Service in Indianapolis, said Friday. The winter of 1981-82 topped it, in terms of the combination of low temperatures and heavy snowfall.

Wabash Valley residents don’t need precipitation measurements, thermometer readings and freeze-line depths to believe they’ve just experienced a long, cold, snowy winter. Until the sun came last week, snow and ice had covered the ground since people were vacuuming the crushed taco chips from New Year’s Eve out of their couch cushions. Chances are, if they didn’t take down the outside Christmas lights in the 40-degree warmth of New Year’s Day, they’ll still hanging on the gutters. (Sorry if that’s a sore subject at your place.) Regardless, since then we’ve all developed deeper relationships with our snow shovels, the power company’s report-an-outage hotline, tow trucks, black ice, windshield scrapers and shoes sprinkled with salt and sand.

Recounting all that feels like whining, though. As a young woman walking out of the Tribune-Star building recently and into the latest round of horizontal snowfall declared, to no one in particular, “If anybody mentions the weather, they’re getting throat-punched.”

Drawing on that inspiration, let’s celebrate good throat health and look at the upsides of this winter. (It does actually have upsides.)

n It’s almost over. Yes, the spring equinox doesn’t arrive until March 20, but forget that.

“Meteorological winter” ends Feb. 28, Shipe explained. Next Sunday, the winter of 2014 hits the history books. After that, any subsequent snow or sub-freezing temps should be blamed on the March lion.

n Lawns, gardens and crops should start strong and may thrive through spring and perhaps into summer, thanks to the protracted presence of heavy snowfall and chilly temperatures. Snow and rains may offset the lingering impact of the drought of 2012. “Especially with the drought a couple years ago, this should replenish some of the watersheds,” said Rob Jean, assistant professor of ecology at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.

The primary farm crop under way now is winter wheat. Typically, bitter-cold temperatures could’ve harmed the wheat. The addition of a deep, long-lasting snow cover insulated the plants, so they should fare better, said Ken Scheeringa, associate state climatologist at the Indiana State Climate Office on the Purdue University campus.

Golf courses and back yards will look greener. Better tune up that mower.

n Some pesky bugs — some — will be less plentiful in the warm-weather months.

Insects that torment Hoosier farm crops spend winter in three different ways — above ground, below ground or out of state. Those that camped out above ground this December, January and February may drop in population. Bean-leaf beetles winter in barns and sheds and “will likely take a beating” in numbers, said Christian Krupke, associate professor of entomology at Purdue. Soybean aphids may take a hit, too.

Critters that stay below ground could fare better, because the snow blanket shielded them from the cold. On the other hand, farmers have told Jean the soil freeze line has reached 18 inches or more this winter. “Some will be killed off, but others have that amazing ability to just thaw out and be fine,” Jean said.

What about the “Big M” — mosquitoes? Their ranks may dwindle, some. Mosquitoes spend winter both above and below ground, Krupke said. Their outcome is hard to tell, for now. Jean pointed out that Alaska is notorious for its thick, big mosquito population, so Indiana’s abnormally rough winter may not kill off as many of the flying pests as we suspect, but at least it shouldn’t cause larger swarms. Indeed, cold winters work better than bug spray.

Disease-spreading and invasive critters may be slowed, as well. According to climate experts cited in the Ontario Record in Canada — they spell every winter with a capital W there — ticks and invaders such as gypsy moths, European beetles and emerald ash borers could decrease this summer.

n Waterways should be refreshed, boosting aquatic wildlife, the Record reported. Look for a solid fishing season. Groundwater should also benefit, Jean said, as any contaminants are diluted.

n Notice fewer rodents lately? “I’ve had way fewer mice than I’ve had in the past,” Jean said, “and I’d bet their population’s been affected.”

That also means their predators may die of starvation, he added.

Our memories tend to shorten in adverse times. Jean sees the mild winters of the previous few years as more of a fluke than the frigid blast of 2014. “To me, this is almost like going back to a more natural cycle this year,” he said.

Thick scarves for everyone next winter.

Mark Bennett can be reached at 812-231-4377 or

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Mark Bennett Opinion
Latest News Poll
AP Video
Obama Chides House GOP for Pursuing Lawsuit Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Two Women Narrowly Avoid Being Hit by Train Raw: Plane Lands on New York Highway Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Raw: Deadly Landslide Hits Indian Village Raw: 16 Killed in Gaza Market Strike Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Crayola Announces Family Attraction in Orlando Wisc. Twins Celebrate a Century of Laughter LeBron James Sends Apology Treat to Neighbors Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma Raw: Amphibious Landing Practice in Hawaii Harding Love Letters Now Open to Public Bull Run Comes to Middle America Raw: Guinea Rap Concert Stampede Kills 33+ Six PA Cops Indicted for Robbing Drug Dealers
NDN Video
Heartwarming 'Batkid Begins' Documentary is Tear-Jerker Orlando Bloom 'Takes a Swing' at Justin Bieber In Ibiza Pitch Invading Morons Cause Chaos - @TheBuzzeronFOX Sadie Doesn't Want Her Brother to Grow Up "Maxim" Hotness! See Jessica Alba's Sizzling Spread Two women barely avoid being hit by train Broken Water Main Floods UCLA Orlando Bloom and Justin Bieber Reportedly Came To Blows In Ibiza Meet the Man Behind Dumb Starbucks Chris Pratt Adorably Surprises Kids at a 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Screening NOW TRENDING: Peyton Manning dancing at practice "The Bachelorette" Makes Her Decision Thieves pick the wrong gas station to rob Golden Sisters on '50 Shades' trailer: 'Look At That Chest!' Staten Island Man's Emotional Dunk Over NYPD Car - @TheBuzzeronFOX GMA: Dog passes out from excitment to see owner Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted 'Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1' Sneak Peek Florida Keys Webcam Captures Turtles Hatching Morgan Freeman Sucks Down Helium on 'Tonight Show'

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -


    March 12, 2010