I love most things about life in Southwest Florida. Really, I smile at the start of almost every day. But there are a few things that don’t make me smile. For example, I know that in our natural world that all creatures large and small co-exist in a complex web of interdependency, but could someone explain to me why we really need mosquitoes? (Editor’s note: OK — http://bit.ly/2RRZeY0). Would entire ecosystems crumble if mosquitoes suddenly vanished? If mosquitoes disappeared, then I’d smile for sure.
And then there’s winter weather. I don’t much care for wintry weather, and when every winter arrives I look forward to its conclusion. Now I know that there are a lot of people who live “up north” who will have little sympathy for me as I complain about Florida’s relatively mild winter climate. But still, I much prefer the stable, predictable tropical weather pattern which prevails during the warmer two-thirds of the year to our less-predictable temperate winter weather pattern.
Every winter is different and every winter brings a different set of challenges. December 2018 saw two consecutive days of winter gale warnings. Not small craft advisories — gale warnings. I had not seen that in 40 years of life here. This past December, it was rain. So much rain that the rainfall during December, which is historically the driest month of the year, exceeded our September rainfall total.
Then last month it was days upon days of windy weather and wild temperature swings. How wild? At my house, the afternoon temperature reached a high of 87 degrees on Jan. 14. On Jan. 22, the morning low was 34 degrees. That’s a 53-degree swing in a week. That did not make me smile.
Every year around the beginning of February I find myself really, really eager for signs that winter is nearing an end. So I open a calendar and become depressed when I am reminded that the official end of winter is still almost two months away (first day of spring in 2020 is March 19). Bummer.
But according to the Farmer’s Almanac, if we go with something called “Meteorological Seasons” we can claim that spring begins on March 1, which is only about three weeks from now. That’s a lot better, though I notice that the calendar is playing a cruel joke on me this year by adding an extra day to February. Couldn’t we change that around so that we add an extra day to May or October or some other nice month during leap years? Why February?
There are statistical signs of hope for the approach of spring. Punta Gorda’s average daily low temperature hits bottom around the middle of January. Statistically, it’s already warmed up about a degree and a half, with about another two and a half degrees to come by the end of the month. I feel better just reading about this stuff.
But there might still be some chilly weather ahead. FSU’s Florida Climate Center says that the latest date that a temperature of 32 degrees or below has been recorded in Punta Gorda was on March 4 (that was in 1980). So there is almost another month to go during which we might need to use an ice scraper on the car windshield, which is a chilling thought.
The good news is that’s pretty unlikely. Various temperature charts used by gardeners indicate that in any given year there is less than a 10 percent chance of a frost in Punta Gorda after Feb. 13. Hey, that’s only a week away. If we can avoid hypothermia for a week, then there is a 90 percent chance that we won’t see frost again this winter. I can live with that.
More important than statistics are the end-of-winter things that are happening around us already. Birds are into their breeding season plumage, and some have already begun nesting. The bald eagles which nest down the street should have hatchlings any time now. A few of the wildflowers are already responding to the increased hours of daylight by sprouting a smattering of blossoms.
We can’t see many signs of spring just yet in the activities of fish, but in another month or so we’ll be seeing schools of Spanish mackerel, and not long after that we’ll begin hearing the “T” word (rhymes with “sharpen”) in fishing reports. We got this.
Let’s go fishing!
Capt. Ralph Allen runs the King Fisher Fleet of sightseeing and fishing charter boats located at Fishermen’s Village in Punta Gorda. He is an award-winning outdoor writer and photographer, and is a past president of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association. Contact him at 941-639-2628 or Captain@KingFisherFleet.com.