News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Opinion Columns

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 mark.bennett@tribstar.com.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Opinion Columns
  • RONN MOTT: Shave

    I recently saw a television pitch man explain the virtues of the single blade in what appeared to be an old-fashioned safety razor. He was explaining we didn’t need three blades in a razor, or five, or six, and how many more are we going to get with the razor to get that perfect shave? He urged us to use only one.

    April 22, 2014

  • MET 081213 MILL TREES.jpg MARK BENNETT: Living the dream

    Earth Day receives its share of under-your-breath criticism.

    April 19, 2014 2 Photos

  • RONN MOTT: Spring activities settle into northside park

    Some say young love blossoms like the flowers in the spring. It must be spring, because we witnessed the first wedding ceremony performed in the Collett Park gazebo on a recent Saturday.

    April 18, 2014

  • Ronn Mott.jpg RONN MOTT: They didn’t make it!

    The “One and Dones” done went and didn’t! (I know this is grammatically incorrect, but I want those folks down in Kentucky to read it.)

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ronn Mott.jpg RONN MOTT: Royce Waltman

    In recent days the papers have been full of good things about Royce Waltman. Not a lot of puffery, but more like Royce himself… straight, true and right at you.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • LIZ CIANCONE: Not much peace since war to end all wars

    My jaw dropped the other day when I read that this year, 2014, marks 100 years since the start of World War I. No, you wise guys, I wasn’t there personally.

    April 14, 2014

  • MARK BENNETT: It’s (Not) So Easy

    Arctic air bled into the Wabash Avenue post-hippie-era diner-pub every time the wooden door swung open.

    April 12, 2014

  • ERIC SCHANSBERG: The 1040 tax form turns 100

    The 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution brought us the federal income tax in 1913. A year later, the 1040 tax form was born.

    April 12, 2014

  • RONN MOTT: Pondering our planet’s future

    I watched a TV show recently and the subject was global warming.

    April 11, 2014

  • RONN MOTT: Bits & Pieces

    I don’t know about you, but I get a total sense of helplessness when I realize 239 people died in one airplane crash. And to make it worse, if that is possible, the loved ones left behind can’t close. Maybe this week.

    April 10, 2014

  • Ronn Mott.jpg RONN MOTT: Basketball and Done

    I guess I’m going to have to change my mind about the “One and Done” rule. It would seem the future professionals wearing university uniforms — national runner-up Kentucky is an example — has proven me a fool. Why should I care about the education they are getting, or not getting?

    April 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • LIZ CIANCONE: Angling for a mate not fond of fishing

    While many little girls daydream about the dream man they hope to find, it seems to me that they concentrate on all the wrong things. I can’t discount the appeal of beauty, brains and virtue, but my dream man was one who was not dedicated to fishing.

    April 7, 2014

  • RONN MOTT: A fine mess for collegiate sports

    Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were a comedic team in the late 1920s, 1930s and 1940s.

    April 4, 2014

  • RONN MOTT: The Angry Planet

    It is better to imagine an ocean as peaceful and calm.  The problem is, an ocean is very rarely, ever that way. I remember when a writer took his wife and family from New York to England in his sailboat. And later, his wife commented there was never a time she could have something cooking on the stove without the food spilling out.

    April 3, 2014

  • RONN MOTT: Learning as you go

    I have always been a person who respects education. Education doesn’t always come to you in the orderly process of school and classroom. Sometimes, it finds you in work-a-day situations.

    April 1, 2014

  • LIZ CIANCONE: Words can take us on memorable excursions

    When The Tribune-Star recently asked the reading public to name “the best” in dozens of categories, I didn’t hesitate in naming Mike Lunsford as my favorite columnist.

    March 31, 2014

  • MARK BENNETT: Volunteers’ cleanup efforts key to river’s future role in community

    People throw all kinds of garbage into and along the Wabash River, aiming to make their used-up stuff disappear from their lives.

    March 29, 2014

  • RONN MOTT: Even NCAA floors pure Americana

    I noticed during the NCAA Tournament games I have been watching that all of them have identical basketball floors, regardless of where the game was played.

    March 28, 2014

  • Ronn Mott.jpg RONN MOTT: Guns and Schools

    I guess I just don’t get it. Perhaps I’m not smart enough. Those who don’t agree with me very often probably think that is the problem — me not being smart.
    The idea that children will be safer if you have a gun in your car in the school parking lot, or somewhere on school grounds, leaves me with the traditional “Duh!” I don’t wish to poke fun at those honest citizens who “pack” and hope they will be able to do something good in the way of helping family or neighbors in the event of a crisis, but often in those situations innocent people get shot.

    March 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • RONN MOTT: Flight 370

    Not too many days ago, I heard a reporter refer to Flight 370 as an accident. It wasn’t an accident … it was, most likely, murder. If this aircraft went down in the Indian Ocean, we will be extremely fortunate to find the remains of the plane and any of the people on it.

    March 25, 2014

  • LIZ CIANCONE: Memories stir desire to collect new ones

    I was talking with a friend the other day, a much younger friend. Somehow the conversation turned to early memories. One of her earliest memories had to do with 9/11 and the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center towers.

    March 24, 2014

  • MARK BENNETT: Dues Paid, change under way

    In the 1940s, Dorothy Jerse sat in a University of Illinois accounting class, listening to a guest speaker.

    March 22, 2014 1 Story 1 Video

  • RONN MOTT: Catching up on the here and now

    Oh my, write down the date, underline it, and say, “The guesswork in Ronn’s column the other day was wrong!”

    March 21, 2014

  • RONN MOTT: The Russian Bear

    As I’m writing this, the official word from the Crimean election is not yet in. It doesn’t have to be … Putin would not have an election for the Crimea to ask itself out of the Ukraine back into Russia because he does not want to be embarrassed. 

    March 20, 2014

  • Ronn Mott.jpg RONN MOTT: Thank you, NCAA

    The MEAC, the MAAC and the MAC. Do you know? And how much do you know mixed with how much do you care? Now we know the MAC, they’re practically home boys. That’s Northern Illinois, Ball State and a handful of teams in Ohio. But you get reacquainted with some of these schools because of the NCAA Tournament.

    March 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • LIZ CIANCONE: Spreading news from one ‘Liz’ to another

    I received a letter the other day from a Yorkville High School classmate. It wasn’t snail mail, it was written in cursive writing and although it required more than the 3-cent stamp of my youth, it found our mailbox within a couple of days of posting.

    March 17, 2014

  • KIEL MAJEWSKI: Sexual violence demands the world’s action

    I have a lot to learn in life, but I am convinced of this: The day men share power equally with women is the day we will see true peace in this world. The day women and girls are valued as much as men and boys, and are treated with the same respect as their male counterparts, is the day we will finally see healthy societies.

    March 15, 2014

  • MARK BENNETT: All aboard!

    Find me a George Mason University basketball T-shirt in Indiana.

    March 15, 2014

  • RONN MOTT: One and done, 2014 style

    Hoosiers, this time of the year, turn their minds and emotions to the grand old game of “hoops.”

     

    March 14, 2014

  • RONN MOTT: Ukraine 2

    The situation in the Ukraine should let us know plainly, and openly, the old saying about a leopard never changing its spots is true. Vladimir Putin is a KGB officer, grew up a communist and, from all appearances, still believes like a communist.

    March 13, 2014

Latest News
TribStar.com Poll
AP Video
Raw: What's Inside a Commercial Jet Wheel Well U.S. Paratroopers in Poland, Amid Ukraine Crisis Motels Near Disney Fighting Homeless Problem Michigan Man Sees Thanks to 'bionic Eye' Admirers Flock to Dole During Kansas Homecoming Raw: Erupting Volcanoes in Guatemala and Peru Raw: Obama Arrives in Japan for State Visit Raw: Leopard Bites Man in India Cubs Superfans Celebrate Wrigley's 100th Raw: Violence Erupts in Rio Near Olympic Venue Raw: Deadly Bombing in Egypt Air Force: $4.2B Saved From Grounding A-10s S.C. Man Apologizes for Naked Walk in Wal-Mart Raw: Cattle Truck Overturns in Texas Video Shows Possible Syrian Gas Attack Raw: Anti-Obama Activists Fight Manila Police Bon Jovi Helps Open Low-income Housing in Philly US Reviews Clemency for Certain Inmates Alibaba IPO Could Be Largest Ever for Tech Firm FBI Joining Probe of Suburban NY 'Swatting' Call
NDN Video
Michael Strahan's First Day on "GMA" Amazon's Deal With HBO Leapfrogs Streaming Rivals Stephen Colbert Tells David Letterman His Plan for 'Late Show' Georgetown police officer filmed tripping students Viral: It's Not Pitbull - It's Amy Poehler! Recycling Highlights for Earth Day Lupita Nyong'o Named People's 'Most Beautiful' Peeps Launched into Outer Space NYPD's Twitter Request For Photos Backfires New HBO Go Commercials Capture Awkward Family TV Watching Raw: Leopard Bites Man in India Rise of the Milkbots Jenna Dewan-Tatum Strips Down TRENDING: Brian Williams Raps 'Gin and Juice' on ‘Tonight Show’ Middle School heroes rescue students from burning bus WHOPPER OF FISHING STORY: Florida man catches massive Mako shark Maks Chmerkovskiy's "DWTS" Meltdown The many faces of Mike Woodson Ape Builds A Fire And Toasts Marshmallows In Amazing BBC Video Manchester Utd sack manager David Moyes
Parade
Magazine

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

activity