2016-11-03 / Front Page

Frost stays away, continuing to defy meteorological odds

By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff

Leelanau farmers have been making hay while the sun shines as unseasonably warm weather continues into the month of November.

And there’s nothing different in the forecast for a least a few weeks.

“All the cold air is locked up well north of here,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Monique Runyan. “There’s some indication that things will change the last half of the month. But for now, it looks like it will be warm.”

The thermometer topped out at 70 degrees Tuesday at the National Weather Service (NWS) coop weather station and dropped to 46 with an average temperature of 58 degrees. That’s a 13.9-degree “departure” from normal.

This fall to date, there has yet to be a frost recorded officially in Leelanau County — defying historical fall freeze data.

According to NWS records, the median date for a 32-degree freeze is Sept. 21-30 for the interior part of the county; Oct. 1-10 along the Lake Michigan shoreline. Those dates are based on temperatures recorded between 1981 and 2010.

Further, each day that passes without a hard freeze — 28 degrees or less— defies the odds.

The median date of a 28-degree fall low in Leelanau County is Oct. 11-20 for the interior; Oct. 21-31 along the Lake Michigan shoreline.

The weather station in Maple City has come close, recording lows of 33 degrees last Thursday, Oct. 28, and Oct. 26.

The Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Center in Bingham Township dropped to a low of 36 the morning of Oct. 27.

Indeed, the entire month of October was warm with highs of 70 or above recorded on five days in Maple City. That has allowed farmers a little more time to get things buttoned down for the winter.

“We’re just about done,” said Jim Schwantes of Sweeter Song Farm in Centerville Township. “We have a few cabbages left to pull.…We were shorthanded for the past month, so it was nice to have a little extra time to wrap it up.”

Schwantes and his wife, Judy Reinhardt, provide organic produce to Oryana Food Coop in Traverse City.

It was a good growing year for the couple who, unlike farmers with field crops, had irrigation.

A long stretch of dry weather, however, took a toll at other county farms.

Bill Olsen, 67, has farmed in Cleveland Township off Bohemian Road most his life.

“It was a terrible summer with the dry weather,” he said. “My hay was probably 60 percent of what it should be. My corn was about that too.”

August precipitation at the weather station in Maple City totaled 1.42 inches

— less than half the “normal” of 3.58 inches.

Olsen said he’ll get by with what he has to feed about 80 head of cattle. Meanwhile, the unseasonably warm weather will give him time to finish some equipment maintenance.

“I can catch up on repairs,” he said.

A lack of frost in the spring helped the apple harvest for Julius Kolarik of Gills Pier.

“All in all it was a pretty good year,” he said. “The hail missed us. The frost missed us.”

Apples from the Kolarik farm are sent to “packers” for fresh and processors, for applesauce.

“It’s been a productive year,” he said.

Kolarik and his fellow farmers and county residents have at least a few more days to check items off their “to do” list.

The forecast calls for sunny skies and highs in the mid-to-upper 50s through Sunday.

“We’ll be fertilizing, mowing and doing some cleanup,” Kolarik said. “There’s no end to farming.”

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