Opinion: An early spring in the West | PostIndependent.com

Opinion: An early spring in the West

Ken Johnson
Free Press Opinion Columnist

Is spring already here? It sure feels like it, doesn’t it?

By Mother Nature’s signs, winter is over. But the official prognosticator, a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil (from Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pa.) saw his shadow despite the overcast sky and rain. Oh, woe!

But there’s a competing woodchuck named Chuck, as in Staten Island (N.Y.) Chuck. On Ground Hog Day there was a shadow, but Chuck sat on it and couldn’t see it. So, winter is over?

If the West had a groundhog to come out and predict, I’ll bet he would say winter is done. Here it’s warm, sunny and dry. If it turns out the budding trees and ice-free ponds in the valley are correct, we just had the shortest winter in memory.

Could this be that “Climate Change” thingy?

Golly, last winter was a snowy wonder. Plus, we had native grasses growing everywhere, thanks to fall rains. And that winter lasted, too. This year, not so much.

There was “walk-on-me” ice on the ponds Jan. 23, but it was gone on Jan. 30, when it rained instead of snow. Nearly all the West is the same despite the long drought.

California has had roughly half its yearly average of rain to date. The Sierras don’t have much snow, so the drought seems to continue.

Our valley is a lot like the “Golden State,” where the brown native grasses turn with winter rains, and last that way until mid-April when turn brown again (oops, I mean golden).

Wildflowers — particularly those dramatic, orange California poppies (plus all kinds of daisies, lupine, Scotch broom and others) — are blooming around the middle of March. A lot of people like our desert wildflowers; they’re coming just a tad earlier. This year, they were blooming on Jan. 28, two months early!

And all the West, including our Grand Valley, is mostly sunny and warm.

Hopefully the weather wizards will confirm this is our shortest winter on record.

While we wait for that bit of trivia, let’s enjoy the days and ease into an early summer, all the while remembering that our valley is subject to whimsical treatment by the weather gods. May is always a month when a hard freeze can show up, punishing everything in bloom, particularly the fragile apricots and peaches.

I’m going to celebrate spring now and enjoy it. Then I will celebrate it again when it “officially” shows up on March 20. You, too, eh?

Free Press columnist Ken Johnson is founder of the Grand Junction Free Press and former owner/publisher of The Daily Sentinel. He spends his time between the Grand Valley and California.

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