By Curt Emanuel
Boone County Extension
---- — The past decade or so has given us a series of mild winters. Until Jan. 3 of this year, the last time temperatures were below zero, as reported in Indianapolis, was Feb. 10, 2011. From Jan. 2 to Jan. 8, lows for six of seven nights were in the single digits or below zero, with a low of minus 15 on Jan. 6. From Jan. 21 through Jan. 29, nine consecutive lows were in the single digits or below, and the same happened for nine of 10 days from Feb. 6 to Feb. 15. Additionally, we’ve had a record snowfall for December through February, and February isn’t over. At some point this winter, three of the Great Lakes — Erie, Huron and Superior — have completely frozen over. (Or as close to completely as we usually see: More than 95 percent of each lake’s respective surface area was frozen.) The total Great Lakes ice cover has reached more than 85 percent, well above the average maximum of 40 percent. This type of winter presents many difficulties. Driving has often been hazardous. Heating bills have been high. Parents have had to pay for extra day care or stay home from work, losing income, when schools are closed. Municipal budgets have been stretched due to the extra snow removal expense. And besides, it’s just been cold. There are some positives, particularly when we’re talking about horticulture and agriculture. The past decade or so has seen the introduction of many invasive species to Indiana and the Midwest. Many of these species have spread rapidly. They have never experienced weather such as we’re having this winter. They have never had to endure temperatures in the double digits below zero, or multiple days where the highs never rose above single digits. See Wednesday's Times Sentinel for the full story.