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Jack Zaleski, Published October 17 2010

Zaleski: Admit it: Weather has been spectacular

When the new edition of the Old Farmer’s Almanac comes out, it is my practice to look at last year’s weather forecasts, which have been reliably wrong for the Red River Valley region. The Almanac’s forecasts were a trifle better this year, but they missed the near-record wet September and what is shaping up to be a very dry, very warm October. Oh, yes, they also missed the sixth-highest flood crest on the Red River since records have been kept.

Come to think of it, the Almanac lived up to the chronic inaccuracy of its weather guesses.

Almanac aside, it has been a near-perfect spring-summer-fall in a place where really bad weather is a guarantee in every season. (OK, a few more early summer tornadoes than usual this year, but that weather disruption passed quickly.)

Spring was beautiful. The land dried, farmers got into the fields in most places at the right time. Trees leafed out in lush, soft green. Rivers that had bloated to flood stages dropped slowly, leaving minimal damage in their wakes.

Summer arrived on schedule with a rainy weekend or two or three, but generally it was a classic season of heat and humidity – real summer weather, even if mosquitoes loved it, too. Home gardens sucked up the sun and moisture, eventually yielding bushels of sweet corn, tomatoes and, yes, zucchini. Last season’s tomatoes didn’t ripen until October, if at all.

Unlike last year’s cold and wet summer, this year, field crops thrived in hot, sunny days and benefited from timely rains. Harvest got started on time or earlier for some crops.

Mother Nature tripped the weather switch right about Sept. 1. The rains came in near record amounts. Rivers rose. Fields muddied. Rain every other day, it seemed. It was shaping up to be a miserable month. But as quickly as she opened the spigot, the rain goddess closed it.

October has been one of the driest, warmest in memory. As the hardwoods put on their annual display of color, October’s sun kicked up the temperature day after day to above normal high 70s and low 80s. And no rain. Land that had been saturated in September dried enough for harvest of later crops – soybeans, sugar beets – to proceed on schedule.

So here we are in mid-month, waiting for the other weather shoe to fall – the insulated boot with snow, wind and ice on the sloughs. It’s coming, to be sure.

But until it does, enjoy. It’s been a beautiful autumn – warm, bright and longer than usual. How nice is that?

Contact Editorial Page Editor Jack Zaleski at (701) 241-5521.