Recollections: The winter that almost wasn’t
By Thom Gerretsen
Remember when we almost escaped winter?
In early January, I wrote about gorgeous walks in Marshfield’s Wildwood Park. Yes, we had some light snowfalls. But it was still mild with highs in the 30s and 40s for days at a time. Before that column could be published, though, it became day-old bread as the winter of 2019 began to roar.
The coldest weather in 36 years made walks in the park virtually impossible, as wind chill factors dipped into the minus-50s. Marshfield’s actual low was -29 on both Jan. 30 and 31 in a week when more than a half-foot of snow fell — and most area schools were closed every day but Friday.
Feb. 2 brought good news when Jimmy the Groundhog of Sun Prairie failed to see his shadow, thus predicting an early spring. But central Wisconsin had freezing rain during the Groundhog/Super Bowl weekend. Feb. 5 then marked the start of an onslaught of snow that didn’t seem to end until the calendar turned to March. Marshfield officially recorded more than 53 inches for the month; 21 inches more than the city’s previous February record. One storm dumped 15 inches; another had 12.
It seems hard to believe, but a friend and I wondered at the start of last month whether farmers would have enough snow cover to protect their croplands until spring. On Feb. 4, I took a photo of my backyard which had enough bare grass to resemble a golf fairway – complete with a large pine tree and a water hazard in the distance.
By Feb. 12, the “fairway” was obstructed by a 6-foot pile of shoveled snow. It would have been a challenge for a snowmobiler to play the hole, much a less a duffer using a golf cart. It took much of my strength just to walk in the yard on March 5, as my legs disappeared into the snowpack while raking large clumps of snow off my roof – a first in the 31 years that my wife Jean and I have owned our current home near Marshfield High School.
Meanwhile, the “road to spring” has appeared. On March 14, I saw icy patches instead of snow under my backyard trees and along the Fillmore Greenway that stretches from the high school to near the intersection of East Fillmore Street and North Anton Avenue.
So when will a walk in the park be comfortable again? When that happens, look for my remembrances of Wildwood Park & Zoo – when you’re more likely to make those scenic treks yourself.