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Out There: Did Mother Nature forget that winter starts tonight?

Winter officially starts at 12:30 a.m. Thursday, Eastern Standard Time, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, which means an 11:30 p.m. beginning today in central Wisconsin.

It seems Mother Nature doesn’t keep up with the almanac, because with just three days before Christmas, there is no snow. Central Wisconsin hasn’t had any significant snowfall since mid-November, and forecasters say the best chance for the fluffy white stuff to make an appearance this week is Thursday, when a few flurries are expected.


The lack of snow is affecting more than the picturesque Christmas season many might be wishing to have.


Skating rinks in Wisconsin Rapids at Witter Field and Robinson Park that were scheduled to open Monday remain closed. Park employees are working to flood the ponds but need several more floodings and low enough temperatures to allow the water to freeze before the sites will be open to skaters.


"As it stands right now, and with the projected forecast, I’m thinking it’s going to be after Christmas," said Matt Heideman, Parks and Recreation Department director. With low enough temperatures, the ponds might be open by New Year’s weekend, Heideman said.


"It’s a day-by-day deal," he said.

That doesn’t mean workers are sitting around watching Christmas specials — there’s plenty of work to be done.


"We’re working on trees right now, and normally, we’d be plowing," Heideman said.


"We really haven’t been able to do a thorough job (pruning and removing) them in three years," he said.


The lack of snow also affected the opening of Powers Bluff tubing and ski hills in the Arpin area and county snowmobile and cross-country skiing trails, said Heather Gehrt, Wood County Park and Forestry office manager and ATV/snowmobile coordinator.


"We’re totally weather dependent," Gehrt said. "We’re hoping to get the Bluff open the week of Christmas break; however, there doesn’t look like there’s any significant snowfall in the near future. We’re at the mercy of Mother Nature.


"Basically, we’d need about a foot of wet, heavy snow to get Powers Bluff operational, to get snowmobile trails packed," she said.

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