- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 15, 2006

CHICAGO

The snowshoes are in the closet, ice fishermen are lingering at the sides of slushy lakes, and at least one snow sculpting event was, literally, a washout.

Unseasonably warm weather and a lack of snow in parts of the country that usually are covered in white this time of year have wreaked havoc with winter recreation events.

Temperatures as high as 50 degrees around Chicago, where it is usually closer to 30 in January, forced the postponement of Fran Volz’s popular Snow Visions sculpting contest in suburban Schaumburg last weekend. He rescheduled for Feb. 11.

“When we were shooting the snow gun, all that came down was water,” Mr. Volz said. “We just had water all over the parking lot.”

Organizers of the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race in Alaska and Canada may have to send the race participants on a detour or give them a lift by truck for only the third time in the event’s 23-year history.

“There’s definitely not as much snow as we would like for the race,” said media coordinator Jennifer Gavin.

The warm weather also is putting a damper on winter sports in the Northern Plains, where temperatures have been 15 to 20 degrees above normal for at least the past two weeks.

“The fishermen are all bummed out,” said Steve Crandall, manager at Turtle River State Park in Arvilla, N.D. Ice fishermen have not been able to drive their trucks safely on the ice or build ice houses.

The cold weather season got off to a robust start, with low temperatures and heavy snowstorms across the country in late November and early December. But because of subsequent warm weather, the snow did not stick around.

Forecasters are not expecting conditions to change any time soon.

“Things still look to be fairly mild” into next week, said Mike Halpert, head of forecasting for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center. “We don’t see the return of that arctic air.”

The warm spell is not all negative: Warmer weather typically means lower heating bills and easier travel.

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