The Weather Channel, Al Roker, meteorology apps on our smart phones — forget them all. Out here in backyard rink country, we use one source to monitor the upcoming weather and plan our builds, fills, and skates: The Old Farmer’s Almanac. The Almanac, published first in 1792, is the resource for not only weather, but also tide tables, planting charts, and the mating tables for your common farm animals. Like I said, it’s all you need for just about everything.
If you’ll allow me to suspend your reality for a bit longer, let’s take a look at what the Old Farmer’s Almanac has to say about this year’s winter weather. After all, if you can’t trust a little yellow book written a year in advance to plan your backyard rink build and fill timing, what can you trust?
Region 1 – Northeast
What the Almanac says: The average temperature in December will be 26°, with brief snow early in the month followed by mild weather as we near mid-month. Christmas week will see sunny and cold weather, and it should remain cold through January. February’s average temp of 20° will follow up on January’s 19°, though you may have to dig out from several storms early in the second month. Bitter cold envelopes the region in mid-February, but that changes over to a rainy and mild stretch late in the month. Overall, precipitation will be below normal.
What it means: Tell Santa to leave some new skates, because the kids should be skating on Christmas Day. You’ll have to deal with some snow early in the season, but backaches build character, and you’ll be in better shape to enjoy six straight weeks of skateable ice once the real cold hits in January. A very cold February means you can string up the red lights, drop rose petals in the crease, and enjoy a Valentine’s Day skate with your babe (but only if she agrees to put on the goalie gear so you can work on your slapper). Better skate while you can, because your rink won’t see March — not unlike Andrew Ference’s groin.
Region 2 – Atlantic Corridor
What the Almanac says: December will see balmy temps in the 30’s, but a stretch of clear and cold greets you mid-month. A few spots of rain sandwich a cold holiday week, and snow showers welcome you to 2011. That’s followed up by very cold temps for the rest of January, with the first unseasonable thaw arriving early in February. You’ll encounter rain and snow for the next week or two, after which a bitter cold front sees you to the end of the month. March’s average temperate approaches 40°. December and January should see below-average precipitation, offset by more February snow than normal.
What it means: First, it means that the Almanac is full of brilliant minds, considering they have Boston in the same weather region as parts of Virgina. But ignoring that fact, you Atlantic Ocean huggers should have a decent stretch of ice starting around the New Year and continuing through February. You’ll have to contend with some rain, snow, and slush, but you love your kids so you’ll clear it off in time for the icy-cold second half of February. (Alternate ending: you only sorta-kinda like your kids, and you’ll tell them that the ice isn’t thick enough for skating when you get 14″ of snow dumped on you on February 3.)
Region 3 – Appalachians
What the Almanac says: December will start off warm, see some colder weather mid-month, then experience rain and mild temps to close out 2010. January will get progressively colder, with below average snowfall. Temps in February will remain in the 20’s, and while several snowstorms are slated, snowfall should be lower than average. Overall, the weather should be cold and dry for most of January and February.
What it means: You can build your rink now, but don’t bother flooding until after the holidays. If you’re near W-B/Scranton, then don your favorite faux-Penguins jersey, fire up The Office reruns, and hold out until the weather turns cold after the New Year. You’ll be glad you did, with a nice stretch of dry, cold weather welcoming you to your own backyard CONSOL Energy Center. February will see some snow, but if Sid don’t need no stinkin’ shovel, you don’t need no stinkin’ shovel. OK, actually, you will need a shovel.
Region 6 – Lower Lakes
What the Almanac says: Looks like it’ll be wet and warm through much of December, turning cold later in the month. Precipitation dots the calendar in January, but an average temp of 22° will make sure it’s of the white fluffy variety. Early February might see some warmer weather, but it should revert back into the bitter cold common to this region. The northern part of the region may see below-freezing temps into March.
What it means: Your season starts later than other areas of the country, but the northern reaches of this region will be one of the only areas to see March ice. Snowstorms will be plentiful but short, not unlike the Montreal Canadiens forwards. Those of you in Chicago should be wary of rink costs this year. If your children and their friends are costing you too much money, feel free to jettison them to other families after this season is over. Clevelanders might suggest Miami as a possible destination to which they can take their talents.
Region 7 – Ohio Valley
What the Almanac says: December temps will be above freezing, with pockets of cold and snow. Rain makes an appearance to close out the year, followed by bitterly cold weather to ring in January. It will remain cold throughout the first month, with warming spots throughout February. Average temp in January will be 29°, jumping 5° to 34° in February.
What it means: You may not have the longest backyard rink season, but you should have a nice chunk between late December and early February. Late December is a good time to fill, primarily because Troy Polamalu’s hair will block out most of the sun. Pittsburgh will host the 2011 NHL Winter Classic on New Year’s Day, so rinkbuilders in that area are required to host neighborhood outdoor hockey games until 1pm, at which point they must commence muttering “Man, I can’t stand that Ovechkin character” until approximately 4pm.
Region 9 – Upper Midwest
What the Almanac says: Winter starts early in this part of the country, with November temps 5° below freezing. December gets even colder, with an average temp of 15°. February will see a rain event mid-month, which makes no sense whatsoever, considering the average temp is below 10°. You can take out the tank tops in March, with temps averaging 25°. Precipitation will be average, which I can only assume means about 15′ of snow.
What it means: This is hockey country for sure. It’s also frostbite country, pellet stove country, and thermal underwear country. I’m writing this on October 27th, and they’ve probably been skating for a month already. I’ve been told that in some neighborhoods, the parents don’t even bother to make rinks. They just give the local children a box of Lemonheads, let them spit on a tennis court, and within an hour they’re playing three-on-three. In fact, I don’t even know why I bothered to include this region, since their internet is frozen.
Region 10 – Heartland
What the Almanac says: It doesn’t turn cold until mid-December, but then it stays cold through the end of February. Most of the winter will be colder than normal with below-average precipitation. Early January may see a brief stint of warmer weather, but it will be followed by bitter cold that should last through mid- to late-February.
What it means: Start mowing down the cornfields now, because you’ll be ready to fill by Christmas. Then, gather up the family and watch as Shoeless Sean Avery and his travelling band of misfit cheap shot artists emerge from the corn to wing pucks at your picture window. Hopefully the ghost of Ulf Samuelsson doesn’t show up this year, because the dog’s been limping around every since old Ulfie leg-checked him in the driveway last February. Pay no attention to the ghost of Claude Lemieux. He’s the one who turtles in the corner whenever he hears the squeaking brakes of the mailman.
And that’s the weather forecast for most of the rinkbuilding populace. If you still need to consult one of those fancy-schmancy digital weather sites, then by all means, do so. I suppose it’d be a more accurate way to predict when a good stretch of cold weather is coming. But just don’t come complain to me when you don’t know your hamster’s horoscope or there’s a snake in your toaster oven.