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Say goodbye to harshest winter PDF Print E-mail

2013-’14 season featured record cold, snow

By Anthony Drew

News-Review Asst. Editor

Snow shovels have been a common sight this winter, and they were out in abundance last week after a storm dropped approximately 16 inches of snow across the North Woods.

This latest snowstorm has put an exclamation point on what has been one of the toughest and longest winter seasons on record in the area.

According to News-Review records, nearly nine feet of

snow has fallen to date in Eagle River and 71 days saw temperatures drop below zero, many of those below -20 degrees Fahrenheit.


“It was the coldest meteorological winter on record for Rhinelander,” said News­watch 12 Chief Meteorologist Matt Benz. “I would assume that would be the same for Vilas County. Records have been kept in Rhinelander since 1908.”

The meteorological winter takes place from Dec. 1 through Feb. 28 and is used to get a sampling of the same three months every year to keep records consistent.

The average temperature through the winter was 4.7 degrees, marking the coldest ever, according to Benz. The next coldest winter took place in 1916-’17, which had an average temperature a full degree higher at 5.7 degrees.

“We also set the record seasonal snowfall with 107.8 inches,” said Benz. “The previous record was 107 inches, which was set during the winter of 1938-’39.”

Other broken records this season included the longest consecutive streak of days with more than one inch of snow on the ground (152) and longest streak of days with more than six inches of snow on the ground (133), according to Benz.

“You guys saw more snow than what we saw in Rhinelander,” he said. “I would say a safe range for Vilas County would be 110 to 150 inches of snow, with the highest snow totals coming from the Presque Isle and Lac du Flambeau area.”

Benz added that Lac du Flambeau has reported 142 inches of snow this season.

“The next concern is when ice-out will be, and last year was one of the latest ever,” said Benz. “We’re going to get colder after today (Monday), so it will be a slow, slow melt.”

A full ice-out on area lakes is not likely to happen in time for the fishing season opener Saturday, May 3. This would mark the second straight year ice has been present for fishing opener.

While the extra snow has been a boon for seasonal activities like snowmobiling, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, below-average temperatures have curtailed that benefit.

In addition to affecting the everyday lives of area residents and visitors, the harsh winter has taken a toll on wildlife in the North Woods.

In Wisconsin, wildlife biologists use what’s called a Winter Severity Index to help gauge the effects of winter weather on animal survival, particularly deer.

This winter was nearly off the charts with an all-time record Winter Severity Index of 145, or what the Department of Natural Resources (DNR)?calls “very severe.”

The index is tallied by awarding one point to every day with more than 18 inches of snow on the ground and one point to every day during which temperatures dip below zero.

The index was first developed in the 1970s. Since then, the second most severe winter took place in 1995-’96 with an index rating of 127.

A winter with an index of less than 50 is considered mild, 50 to 79 is moderate, 80 to 99 is severe and more than 100 is very severe.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014 1:08 PM
Last Updated on Friday, April 25, 2014 8:31 AM

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